Remembering Chris Coffland ’88

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By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

I suppose you could say that I have written about this a lot recently, but there are moments in life that serve to give you pause – to ponder the things that we take for granted every day.  I wrote an entry a few weeks back about how in the hustle and bustle of every day life, it was the view of the mountains on a beautiful day that served to snap me out of my daily routine.

Last week many across America celebrated Veterans Day to remember all those who have fought for our freedoms.  More than celebrate, I chose to think about the people I have known who have served in the military.  Nothing brought this more to mind than watching the movie Taking Chance on HBO that evening.  It follows a single fallen marine from his death on the battlefield to his home in Wyoming for burial.  Quite a powerful movie and one that makes you consider how much respect our military members deserve for their sacrifices.

On Friday, the Washington and Lee Student-Athlete Advisory Committee organized a care package event in Doremus Gym.  As part of the Americans helping Americans organization, W&L’s student-athletes prepared care packages for nearly 500 soldiers who are part of the Blackhawk Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Afghanistan.  Folks from across the Lexington and campus communities donated items for the packages and members of the SAAC raised money to ship the packages to our troops.  To learn more about this event, you can read the story prepared by W&L senior women’s soccer player Maggie Sutherland that ran in the NCAA News last week.

Chris Coffland '88

The combination of Veterans Day and the care packages served to remind me that our military is still protecting our freedoms every day, but it was another event that served to give me pause.  It was learning of the death of former W&L football and lacrosse player Chris Coffland ’88 in Afghanistan on Friday that hit home.

As members of the W&L community were packaging items to send to Afghanistan, one of our own gave the ultimate sacrifice.  The timing of this tragedy can not be lost on any of us.

Chris’ story is well profiled in an article published in the Baltimore Sun and also through the W&L News Office Blog.  Through speaking with his former coaches, it is apparent that Chris was a special person and one who was not out of character when he enlisted for the Army Reserve shortly before the age cutoff of 42 years.

Former W&L assistant football and lacrosse coach and athletic director Chuck O’Connell recruited Chris from his native Baltimore and tells the tale of a serious and goal-oriented young man who was tough as they come.

“He was a dedicated, team-first player,” said O’Connell.  “He was absolutely a throwback type of athlete and would do anything that you asked of him.  He was a guy that the offense and defense both fought over because you knew that he would help either unit.  He wasn’t a superstar, but you knew he would not let up.”

Current W&L baseball coach Jeff Stickley used to coach the offense for the football team and also shared his memories.

“He was so tough,” noted Stickley.  “He once played with a broken hand.  We were meeting as a staff about the next week’s game and we knew he was hurt.  Chris had stopped by the office and we asked if he would be okay to play.  Chris responded by knocking his (broken) hand off the doorstop and said ‘don’t you worry’.  He was a different cat, but a really good guy and teammate. It didn’t surprise me at all when I heard that he enlisted so that someone with a family would not have to fight — he wanted to take their place.”

Coffland played 30 games with the lacrosse team, collecting 19 ground balls and scoring one goal.  On the football field, he was a captain and played in 27 games and totaled 828 yards and six touchdowns combined rushing and receiving.  However, those that remember Chris most would tell you that the numbers never mattered.

“I would say that Chris always struck me as a young man that was on a quest to find the meaning of life,” stated O’Connell.  “Isn’t it simply ironic that once he finally found that meaning it cost him his life?”

The funeral service for Chris will be held on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 11 a.m. in Baltimore’s Cathedral of Mary Our Queen (5200 N Charles Street) followed by a reception at Gilman School (5407 Roland Avenue). Visitation will be on Friday, Nov. 20, from 12 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W Padonia Road in Timonium, MD. The family is establishing a memorial fund at Gilman School and has asked that donations be made there in lieu of flowers.

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One Response to “Remembering Chris Coffland ’88”

  1. Services Set for W&L Alumnus Killed in Afghanistan « Washington and Lee University News Says:

    […] UPDATE (11/19): Roanoke Times writer Doug Doughty has a piece about Chris in his notebook today. You can read it here. In addition the current “From the Sidelines” blog by W&L Sports Information Director Brian Laubscher has a posting about Chris. […]

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