Air Force Staff Sergeant CHRISTOPHER S. FROST: Proud 'Combat Journalist'
By Tina Susman, Times Staff Writer
Among the service members who have died since the conflict began in March 2003, the stories of several have lingered in the minds of Times reporters and photographers, even if they weren't necessarily close to them.
Whenever I'm thundering over Iraq in a helicopter, I think of a colleague who died in a copter crash in Afghanistan years ago, and I pray that my aircraft makes it safely to the landing pad. From now on, I'll also think of Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Frost, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq on March 3, six months after arriving here.
I knew Frost mainly through e-mails: He was a public affairs officer and often sent messages to the media offering us stories, interviews or trips to view U.S. and Iraqi military operations. I responded to one of his first e-mail invitations.
"I hope this will be the start of a great relationship," Frost wrote back after I confirmed my attendance.
I didn't write a story on the trip, but the two of us hit it off. Frost's name suited his fair complexion, round, snowman-like face, and wide, pale blue eyes. As we spoke, I couldn't help thinking of Frosty the Snowman, despite the warm day.
He peppered me with questions about my work in Iraq, and he clearly considered himself a journalist as well as a military man. Over time, I noticed he added "Combat Journalist" when signing his e-mails, which trickled into my inbox through fall and winter.
The online journal maintained by Frost, who was 24, included the usual lists -- favorite bands, movies and TV shows -- but also spoke of his passion for photojournalism and included colorful descriptions of his adventures across Iraq.
One of Frost's last postings was Feb. 29, three days before he died. "I have a ton of trips planned next week," he wrote, and he promised to post fresh photographs for friends and fans who read his journal.
Frost and seven Iraqi airmen were killed in an Iraqi army helicopter crash the day before I left the country for a short break. I didn't pay much attention to the news, but because of my obsession with helicopter crashes, I found myself reading a report on the incident two days later.
When I saw Frost's name, I wondered the same things that I always wondered about my friend in Afghanistan: Did he know they were about to crash? Could he see what was happening? Was he afraid?
I hoped not. I still hope not.