On Monday, the day after Father’s Day, Seal Beach resident Gary Fishbeck will bury his son.
Army Spc. Christopher Fishbeck, 24, was killed in Baghdad this month when enemy forces attacked his unit. He will be honored in a Hero Mission Friday at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base where his remains will be flown home from the war.
"Families serve, too. So when the soldiers are killed, the families are left to experience the loss and the mourning,” said Laura Herzog, founder of Honoring our Fallen, a Los Alamitos nonprofit that helps to arrange hero missions and offers support and services to the families of soldiers as they grieve. “It takes a community to support these families. It is important to support them in whatever way you can. That could be standing there at the Joint Forces Training Base with your hand over your heart so the family sees that the people from the community care that their loved ones died and gave their life for our freedom."
A Hero Mission is a ceremony honoring a fallen soldier as his or her coffin arrives home. With permission from the family, Hero Missions are open to the public to give the community an opportunity to pay their respects to the men and women who sacrifice their lives for the country.
On June 6, the Fishbeck family lost their son, brother and new husband. According to his loved ones, Fishbeck, a former wrestler and football player at Kennedy High School in La Palma, was a playful and mischievous young man with “spunk,” but he was also a solemn soldier, who studied missile trajectories, worked in intelligence and expected to die in Iraq.
“I saw Christopher two weeks ago,” his mother Toni Kay said at a press conference held on Tuesday. “He was home on leave and he took me aside and he told me that there was a 90 percent chance that he would not make it our of Iraq alive because there was increasing fire coming onto the base where he was stationed. I was somewhat mentally prepared, but I think any mother that sends a son off to war, you have to make peace with that possibility that he may lose his life.”
Fishbeck was killed along with four other soldiers in an attack on his unit. Killed were Spc. Emilio J. Campo Jr., 20, of Madelia, Minn.; Spc. Michael B. Cook Jr., 27, of Middletown, Ohio; Spc. Robert P. Hartwick, 20, of Rockbridge, Ohio; and Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri, 26, Chicago, Il.
Fishbeck is survived by his wife of three months Stephanie Kidder, his mother and father, his sister Rene Gutel of Paris, France, and his sister Randi Jean Fishbeck of Anaheim.
“Today we family members and friends are inconsolable,” said Kay. “It is my prayer as a mother that if peace ever finds Iraq, then those inconsolable tears will be replaced with the knowledge that my son had a hand in making the world a place of peace.”
Fishbeck’s Hero Mission is noon Friday at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, and members of the community are encouraged to attend. Guests should arrive by 11:30. The public also invited to his memorial service at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church, 5201 Evergreen Ave. in Cypress.
According to Herzog, California is home to 645 heroes who have given all in our current conflicts. This is the highest for any state in our union.
“Every situation is different and every family is different -- but they are all Heroes -- and deserve proper respect during the most difficult time of their lives,” said Herzog.