Monday, July 23, 2007

Christopher G. Scherer dies of 'wounds suffered while conducting combat operations'

Christopher Scherer grew up loving all things military. He admired uniforms and loved to ride the fire trucks at the Centerport Fire Department where his grandfather volunteered.

Scherer, a Northport High School graduate who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 17, was killed Saturday in Iraq, three months into his deployment there.

He was 21, having just celebrated his birthday on June 29.

"This was Chris' goal, to serve his country," his father, Tim Scherer, 48, said Monday at the family's East Northport home. "I feel at peace. We have no regrets."

Scherer, a corporal, died from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, the Department of Defense said Monday.

His family laughed and cried Monday as they shared memories of a funny, loving and loyal boy who played high school lacrosse, became an Eagle Scout and yearned to join the Marines.

He told them he was ready to join when he was 15, and he did so two years later under an early enlistment program. Before leaving for boot camp in August 2004, he and his father erected a flagpole in the front yard and hoisted the Stars and Stripes.

"The only person that can take that flag down is you," Tim Scherer recalled telling his son.

When Christopher Scherer came home on leave, he would replace the worn flag with a new one. On Saturday, when the Scherers learned of their son's death, they faced a heartbreaking dilemma: Who would replace the flag, and raise it to half-staff in tribute to their son?

On Saturday, a member of Christopher Scherer's Eagle Scout troop helped Tim Scherer raise a new flag donated by the New York State police.

In its company are yellow ribbons dotting houses along the street.

Christopher Scherer's sister Katie, 18, Monday recalled that in 2004, after her brother had completed boot camp, she wrote him a letter telling him how scared she was.

"He wrote me back saying, 'I'm ready for anything that comes my way,'" Katie Scherer recalled Monday.

Scherer was stationed in Fuji, Japan, in 2005, and at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in March 2006. Assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, he was deployed to Iraq in April, his family said.

He wore a silver-and-gold cross that had belonged to his grandfather, the late Kevin Joseph Scherer, an Air Force staff sergeant who served in Alaska during the Korean War.

"He didn't do it to be a hero," Katie Scherer said of her brother's decision to join the Marines. "He did it because it's what he believed in."

Scherer also is survived by his sister, Meghan, 18, and his mother, Janet Scherer, 48. The family will travel tomorrow to Delaware to accompany his body home to Long Island.

Visitation will be at Nolan and Taylor-Howe Funeral Home on Laurel Road in Northport both Thursday and Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Centerport Methodist Church on Little Neck Road in Centerport. Burial will follow in Northport Rural Cemetery.

As friends and neighbors streamed into the house Monday night, the Scherer family looked at a photograph of Christopher Scherer taken in an Irish fishing village during a long-anticipated trip with friends in 2005. Sitting on a bronze dolphin, he was smiling, his arms spread wide.

"That picture is the real Chris," said his grandmother, Margaret Burr. "He lived like he had the whole world in his hands."

From Newsday