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Phillips Academy Graduate Killed in Action

Lt. Commander Erik S. Kristensen

July 05, 2005 Lt. Commander Erik S. Kristensen, a 1991 graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, was one of 16 servicemen killed on June 28, 2005, when his Special Operations MH-47D Chinook helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission in Afghanistan. He was 33 years old.

The helicopter crew consisted of eight Navy SEALs and eight members of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. According to the Pentagon, Kristensen was the senior officer among the SEAL team. He, along with four of the other SEALs, were assigned to SEAL Team 10 at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va.

At the time of the crash, Kristensen and his team were en route to extract a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance team that had called for assistance while operating in Kunar Province, a rugged mountainous area in northeastern Afghanistan on the Pakistan border.

Kristensen, who was single, is the only child of retired Rear Adm. Edward K. Kristensen and Suzanne C. “Sam” Kristensen, who live in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently, the elder Kristensen had commanded a combat logistics group at Little Creek. Earlier in his career he had commanded the destroyer Waddell and the cruiser Lake Champlain. He also oversaw the Navy’s salvage effort of TWA flight 800, which crashed off Long Island, N.Y., in 1996.

Erik Kristensen was born at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center and graduated from Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., before entering a postgraduate year at Phillips Academy in 1990. In 1995, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with honors, receiving a BS degree in English and French. He completed his SEAL training in March 2001.

Kristensen was recently awarded an Olmsted Foundation Scholarship and had planned to study at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris next year. The program allows a select few service members to study abroad for two years.

Although Kristensen spent much of his life in and around naval bases, his mother, Suzanne Kristensen, said she and her husband never pushed Erik toward a military career. “We kind of assumed that since he had grown up on naval bases he wouldn’t want to make it his career,” she said, laughing gently at the memory of her son. “In fact, I didn’t know he was going into the military until he applied.”

She described Erik as something of a Renaissance man who had a deep love of literature and the written word. He had a special affection for the writings of Shakespeare and Melville and he often wrote poetry himself. “He was a scholar in all ways,” said his mother.

Erik also loved the water and loved sports, with one of his favorite being lacrosse, which he played at Phillips Academy. At Andover, he was also introduced to the sport of crew, which he took up with gusto at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a member of the varsity crew team during all four years.

“Erik really enjoyed his year at Andover,” recalled his mother. “He made lots and lots of friends there. I didn’t realize how many he kept in touch with until I got calls and cards from them offering their condolences.”

A memorial service for Kristensen will be held on July 19 at the main chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Erik’s name to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation Athletic and Scholarship Program, 25 Maryland Ave., Annapolis MD 21401

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