Crash in Iraq kills Marine from Tri-Cities
Published Thursday, February 8th, 2007
By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writer
A Marine from the Tri-Cities died Wednesday in a helicopter crash 20 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Sgt. Travis Pfister, 27, who loved a good joke and worked for months on the perfect recipe for barbecued ribs, was due home from his third tour in Iraq next month.
He graduated in 1997 from Hanford High School in Richland, where he wrestled and played defensive end on the football team.
"On the surface, he was a very happy-go-lucky guy. But he was very aware of how people were feeling around him," said his uncle, Blaine Hulse of Pasco. "He was one of the guys that kept tabs on everybody, made sure they were motivated and happy."
Pfister was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and served as a helicopter crew chief. His wife, Jessica, also is a Marine.
His mother and stepfather, Lorrie and Loron Tallett, live in Kennewick; his father and stepmother, Richard and Jackie Pfister, live in Richland.
Four other Marines and two Navy personnel were killed when the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Iraq's Anbar province.
Marine Corps officials at the Pentagon said the Sea Knight was in flames when it went down and that witnesses in a nearby military aircraft saw no signs of hostile fire, The Associated Press reported.
The officials said they suspected the fire was caused by a mechanical problem.
But an Iraqi air force officer said the helicopter was downed by an anti-aircraft missile, and an Iraqi farmer who lives near the crash site said he heard a missile fired moments before the crash, according to The Associated Press.
Many in Pfister's family gathered Wednesday at his mother's house in Kennewick.
They laughed and told stories of his childhood antics with his older brother, Josh Pfister, 29.
They also talked about how he loved to fish, hunt and ski, and how he lived life to the fullest.
"He carried himself with confidence and pride, and without (bravado)," said Hulse.
"Travis was a tough little nut," added his former Hanford High football coach, Greg Sevigny, in a phone interview. "He always had a smile on his face. And he was tenacious. He was a tough kid, but he always had a smile on his face."
Pfister enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1998, though he'd long been fascinated with the military.
As a boy, he was a regular customer at a local military surplus store, remembered his dad, Richard Pfister.
"He loved all that stuff. I saw (when he was) 7 that he'd be in the service for life," said his stepmother, Jackie Pfister.
In Iraq, he helped transport the sick and wounded, and often volunteered for extra flights. He liked the discipline and camaraderie of the Marine Corps, and he believed in what he was doing, his family said.
In an e-mail to his mom last week, Pfister wrote that he'd taken more than 20 people to the hospital for urgent medical care this month alone.
"Things are going well, though just waiting to come home," he wrote. "I love you guys and will see you all soon."
A memorial service hasn't yet been arranged.
Sports editor Jeff Morrow contributed to this story.