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BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — Williams College alum and United States Marine Nathan Krissoff ’03 didn’t have to go off to war.  He asked to go.

Born in Truckee, Nevada, he moved to Reno as a child and went on to Williams in Williamstown, Mass., where he majored in political science and was the captain of the swim team in his senior year. He also played on the water polo team and was an accomplished whitewater kayaker who was a member of the United States Junior National Kayak team.

The measure of a life is not honors. For example, he never earned All-Conference or All-America honors while competing in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA).  He is not in a Hall of Fame.

But he earned this story by stepping forward.

Following a year living in Europe, he joined the Marines after being told that he was too young to work at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – he wanted to be on the “front line” of the Global War on Terror. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in August of 2004.

“He believed in fighting terrorism,” stated his father William Krossoff, who works in orthopedics. “It was important to him. He was deeply affected by 9/11.”

In August 2006, then First Lieutenant (1LT) Nathan Krissoff and his unit deployed to Iraq. Shortly after arriving in Iraq, 1LT Krissoff wrote home: “Almost five years to the day after September 11, 2001, I have the chance to put my money where my mouth is in terms of service…. I’m constantly reminded of that famous quote from Tom Hanks’ character at the end of Saving Private Ryan: “Earn this.” Earning it will mean sacrifice, determination, doing my job to the best of my ability. I chose this, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

During his deployment, 1LT Krissoff led a Human Intelligence Exploitation Team sub-team on eight different battalion operations and participated in 30 combat patrols. During one mission, his intelligence skills were key to freeing an Iraqi national that was held hostage by terrorists (the picture at the top). On December 9, 2006, 1LT Krissoff volunteered to participate on an intelligence mission in the Al Amiriyah and Al Faris area of Fallujah, Iraq. As his unit was returning to base, 1LT Krissoff’s vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) when the Humvee drove over explosives that had been buried in a dry riverbed. Nathan, who was sitting in the right rear seat, took the brunt of the blast. He was only four months into his nine month deployment.

He posthumously received a Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Commendation Medal with the Combat Distinguishing Device for Valor. 

But the awards only tell part of his story.

His funeral was held in his hometown of Reno. His brother, Austin, had just graduated for Marine Officer Candidate School when Nathan deployed. Austin, his parents, grandparents and hundreds of Reno natives were in attendance at Nathan’s funeral.

After the funeral, there was a message on Dr. Bill Krissoff’s orthopedic office. It told patients that Dr. Krissoff was no longer seeing patients because he had joined the United States Navy in order to finish his son’s mission to take care of Marines. This came about after President George Bush went to Reno to give a speech months after Nathan had passed away, and he met the Krissoffs afterwards. President Bush asked the family if there was anything that he could do for him, and Nathan’s father, Bill told him that he wanted to enlist to finish his son’s deployment.

Leaving his profitable practice, Dr. Bill Krissoff was sworn in as a Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr) in the U.S. Navy in 2007. After completing his training with the U.S. Navy, Lt. Cmdr Krissoff arrived in Iraq to finish his son’s seven-month deployment.

According to Krissoff, it was a culture shock to be there – the C-130s spiraling in to avoid getting shot, the blast walls surrounding the hospital “like something out of Mad Max.” Most of the surgeries Krissoff saw weren’t that different from what he was handling back in America – knees and shoulders injured in training.

After weeks from getting back from his deployment to Iraq, Lt. Cmdr Krissoff signed up for another deployment, but this time to Afghanistan. Krissoff arrived at Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan as the battle for Marjah was kicking off in February 2010. In his time in Afghanistan, Krissoff served as the primary or assistant surgeon on 225 serious casualties, including countless amputations. Marines coming into Bastion with a heartbeat had a 97 percent chance of making it to the next facility alive.

Lt. Cmdr Krissoff continued to serve for six years, and he feels that he did finish what Nathan started.

“In most families, dad inspires sons. In our family, sons inspire dad,” Krissoff said.

Information courtesy Williams College & United States Marine Corps

Collegiate Water Polo Association