In Memoriam of Marine LtCol Christopher “Otis” Raible: 100% Marine 100% American

What do we say when we hear one of our Nation’s finest has lost their life in war? 
My sincerest sympathies.
Thoughts and Prayers to the family and friends.
Thank you for your service and for fighting for liberty so that I may remain free.
For me, each of these and so many more hold true with every news story read or seen on television.  But for the past week, my heart has felt considerably saddened and heavier with thoughts of the death of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible, Commanding Officer of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA- 211) “The Wake Island Avengers,” based out of Yuma, AZ.

The Wake Island Avengers VMA-211 over Wake Island

On September 14, 2012, as numerous anti-American protests continued to rage across the Middle East, fifteen Afghans with automatic rifles and grenade launchers, and wearing U.S. military uniforms, attacked U.S. Marine Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, destroying six and damaging two AV-8B Harrier jets, three refueling stations and killing LtCol Raible and Marine Sgt. Bradley Atwell.

Raible died heroically while leading several other Marines, Atwell included, in an aggressive counter attack defending his aircraft and Marines against a more heavily armed Taliban force.  Their sacrifice saved countless others and is a testament to their character, honor and commitment to our country.  14 of the 15 attackers were killed.  That one who wasn’t killed?  He is wounded and captured.  The Wake Island Avengers will have vengeance and justice will prevail.
I’ve read many articles online about LtCol Raible and his life over the past week.  He graduated from Newton High School in Huntingdon, PA, studied civil engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and was commissioned as a Marine officer on May 21, 1995.   His awards were many:  Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Air Medal-Strike/Flight (numeral 10), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (second award), Air Medal-Individual Action, AFG Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (second award) and NATO Service Medal – International Assistance Force. 

This statement from the floor of the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Tim Murphy of PA is a beautiful tribute to recognize and honor Raible’s sacrifice and bravery on behalf of our nation. Get your handkerchief before clicking play. 

I never met and did not know LtCol Raible, or “Otis,” the call sign his fellow Marines named him.  It is my brother-in-law, retired (once a Marine – always a Marine) LtCol Dave “Burt” Lancaster, who served and flew with him and considered him a close friend.  The stories and photos I’ve been privileged to see and hear break my heart reminding me how close each of us is to tragedy and loss. 

It’s the personal stories from my brother-in-law Dave and so many others that will keep Chriss memory alive forever.  Stories like how he when he was child, he would get upset if he received a B because only an A was acceptable.  How he helped his sister with her Math homework.  How he expected perfection from himself and all those around him.  Dave says of Chris “he was a man of extremes; even amongst men who tend to be extremists about everything they do … he was amongst the best in a group that prides themselves at being better than everyone else.”

He was my brother-in-law’s student, as Dave helped teach him to fly the Harrier.  Dave shares “Chris was a sponge, and often knew more about aircraft systems than many of his instructors … Harrier pilots worth their salt wanted to fly with him, because his demeanor always brought forth their best effort.  Pilots that weren’t putting forth as they should be dreaded flying with him, as he would expose their inadequacies.  This commitment to excellence resulted in his selection to attend The Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course at the prestigious Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1).  This honor came at an early stage of his flying career.”

When Dave was the Executive Officer of VMA-223 and they headed to Iraq in 2005, he personally requested Chris be a part of the squadron as he knew Chris’ flight leadership would be needed.  Indeed, Chris led numerous successful engagements of Iraqi insurgents.  Because they were both flight leads, they rarely flew together; however, when they did, Chris called it a “father and son hunting trip.”  After successful Fleet tours, Chris was selected as a MAWTS-I Instructor, instructing new WTIs; truly the best of the best.  He was subsequently selected as a squadron commander, taking over VMA-211, the only Harrier squadron in Afghanistan today.

Otis and Burt

Dave says “We always said that to be a successful Harrier pilot, you need talent in the jet, be phenomenal at your ground job and have a great bar act.  Otis had all three.  A finer Marine, man, son, husband, father and friend, you will ever know.  Marines have been running to the sound of the guns since 1775, and Otis was amongst the best.”

Honor and Never Forget Otis, Sgt. Atwell, and all those we have lost.  Share his story and every other you hear to keep their memory alive.  Not sure how you else you can help? Click below:
Chris’s memorial service will take place this Monday, September 24, 2012, at the MCAS Yuma chapel at 1000 hrs and will be open to station personnel, family and friends.   His mother said her son died defending all that he held dear.  He is survived by his parents, and his wife, two daughters 11 and 9 and a 2 year old son.  Please keep them all in your prayers.  
Flightline at Bastion/Leatherneck
Semper Fi!

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