Fallen solider honored with memorial plaque
A memorial plaque honoring Staff Sgt. Christopher Staats was dedicated at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Texas Army National Guard Armory in Fredericksburg.
Staats was killed in action in 2009 in the Wardak Province, Afghanistan, while stationed in the Ghazni Province.
The plaque was donated by retired members of the Texas Army National Guard’s Company B, 249th Support Battalion and by Southwest Granite.
Special guests at the ceremony included his parents, Lorna and Gary Eckhardt and Bobby Staats, and his sister, Jennifer Terry.
Jordy Keith, External Affairs and Communication, Texas Army National Guard, Construction and Facilities Management Office, was mistress of ceremonies for the program.
Chaplain Capt. James Campbell offered the prayer, and Fredericksburg Mayor Linda Langerhans spoke.
Col. Dan Harris (Ret.), who was Staats’ commander in Afghanistan, explained that Staats was part of a 65-person Agribusiness Development Team whose counter-insurgency mission was to connect the local population with Afghan officials and to build trust via agricultural development projects.
Staats was one of 12 members of the core component of the ADT — the agricultural component. The 12 members were chosen because of their practical experience in the agriculture or animal husbandry related businesses.
“They connected with the population and tried to get them to connect with their local leaders and break those bonds between the population and the Taliban,” Harris said. “Chris had a key role in the team.”
Calling Staats dedicated and motivated, Harris said, “Chris pushed himself to enhance the unit’s abilities.”
When searching for what to say to the family after Staats’ death, Harris said he kept coming back a particular passage in Matthew 22.
That passage, he said, “shows the real motivation of Chris — not just his accomplishments but what was in his heart.”
Harris said that while Staats’ accomplishments were noteworthy, that isn’t what made him a great man.
“It was the motivation in his heart,” Harris said, “I know because I got to see that Chris loved the Lord his God. He was in Afghanistan doing good will developing the country and connecting with the people and benefiting them.”
“Chris was living exactly what that Bible verse tells us to do — Love your Lord your God, and love others as yourselves,” Harris said. “To the Staats family, thank you for raising such an incredible man. I got to see him in action and it gives me an idea of the environment he grew up in.”
Harris ended by saying that “one day if we lead our lives as Chris did, we are going to hear what I know Chris heard. He heard, ‘Well done good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things and I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’” (Matthew 25:21).
Also taking part in the program was SFC Russell Immel (Ret.), who was the platoon sergeant when Staats joined the local unit, and Maj. Charlie Heath, executive officer, 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, Texas Army National Guard.
The program ended with the benediction led by Campbell.
Staats was a member of Echo Company, 536th Brigade Support Battalion, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard.
Staats grew up in Fredericksburg and graduated from Fredericksburg High School in 1996. He joined the Texas Army National Guard while in high school and graduated from Texas A&M University in 2002.
His awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal Second Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Also, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon Second Award, NATO Medal with M Device, Air Assault Badge and Combat Action Badge.