Cpl. Bordoni's widow, fellow Marines recount his bravery
Ithaca church at capacity for funeral
11:20 PM, Apr. 12, 2012
Written by Rachel Stern
One of the best things about Jessica Bordoni's husband was how well he knew her.
Whenever people she didn't know well would come up and speak to her, she would get little panic attacks. Her heart would start to race, but over the course of time, she said, her husband, Chris Bordoni, taught her how to calm down. He would always say, "Chill out, babe, chill out," she said.
So on Thursday morning, when Jessica walked up to speak at Chris' funeral, tissues in hand, with her heart racing, she said she was able to do it because he was there with her.
The night before Chris left for his deployment to Afghanistan, he and Jessica were in their room and she told him she didn't know what she would do if anything ever happened to him. He just looked at her, wrapped his arms around her and said, no matter what happened, everything would be OK.
The last conversation Jessica had with her husband in Afghanistan was two days before he was critically injured there. Chris told her that he couldn't wait to come home to her.
"He said I promise I'll come home, and he did," she said. "He made it home. And even though he fought so hard and he struggled and he knew that everything that happened, it all lay in his hands and it would be his decision and that's exactly what it was. And he made it home to be with us. To let us say what we wanted to say to him."
Immaculate Conception Church was filled to capacity, which is 750 people, with about 30 more standing behind the pews against the wall, for a Mass of The Resurrection for Cpl. Christopher D. Bordoni.
About 60 members of his Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines sat in pews on the left side of the church.
Cpl. Bordoni, 21, was critically injured in January in Afghanistan and died April 3 at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
The line to get into the service wrapped around the corner of North Geneva and West State/Martin Luther King Streets when the doors opened at 9:30 a.m. When members of Cpl. Bordoni's Bravo Company arrived and filed past the line. Those waiting applauded.
One Marine, stationed in Quantico, Va., stood in line on a few hours of sleep after leaving Virginia at 10 p.m. last night. He marveled at the community outpouring of support for Cpl. Bordoni. He said this type of support does not take place in all communities.
Rev. Joseph Marcoux said it was a privilege to speak with members of Cpl. Bordoni's family a few days ago. The stories that emerged about Cpl. Bordoni were amazing, he said.
Chris' father, Tim, told Marcoux a story about when Chris was 5 and asked if his shoe would hit someone if it fell off in heaven.
Chris' mother, Carol Sprague, told Marcoux a story about a time when Chris' brother, Casey, was in school one day and some kids were picking on someone. Casey went over to try and help. Chris just happened to be walking by, dropped his backpack, and immediately went over and tried to help Casey defend the kid who was getting picked on.
"So, even when he was young," Marcoux said, "he was protecting others."
Lt. Col. George Benson, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, spoke about the dangerous operations Cpl. Bordoni faced when he served in Afghanistan.
"I am here to make sure you all understand that the young man you grew up with, or simply knew as Chris, became one of the Marine Corps' most talented and courageous leaders," he said.
Cpl. Bordoni was part of two of the most significant and dangerous operations the U.S. Military has committed to in Afghanistan, Benson said. For example, in August 2011, Cpl. Bordoni's battalion was ordered to clear the remaining stretches of a valley in the Helmand Province that held more than 145 Taliban bunkers, Benson said.
It took Cpl. Bordoni's company three days to reach their objective and Cpl. Bordoni was in the middle of it all, he said. Cpl. Bordoni maneuvered his team from position to position and within a week the majority of the Taliban leaders had fled the Kajaki area, Benson said.
"I think Chris lived these past couple of months with a message. He was showing everyone how much he loved us. He wanted his fellow Marines to be proud of him, and we all are," Benson said. "And he wanted his family to recognize that he was willing to endure extreme hardship in order to see them again. One day I will tell my grandchildren how I am not a hero, but as a younger man I was once blessed to walk among them for a while. Thank you, Chris Bordoni."
Cpl. Paul Chambers said he carries so much of Cpl. Bordoni with him. Chambers was Cpl. Bordoni's squad leader in Afghanistan. He leaned on Cpl. Bordoni when it came to tactical decisions. He admired Cpl. Bordoni's courage, dedication, heroism and commitment.
On Nov. 5, 2011, the squad's point man was struck by an improvised explosive device. Cpl. Bordoni cleared out a landing zone for a helicopter. Those actions saved the right leg and life of the lance corporal, who was at the service on Thursday, Chambers said.
Something that will always stick out to Chambers, though, was the way Cpl. Bordoni befriended Afghani children. Cpl. Bordoni would show these children that the men who showed up in their villages every day with large rifles were not there to cause harm, but to help rid their surroundings of bombs.
"I can, without a doubt, affirm that he touched numerous children throughout Afghanistan as I remember their faces and voices chanting his name upon his arrival into their villages, ever so joyous of the security and the hope that he brought with him," Chambers said.
While sniffles could be heard throughout the morning service, crying was most audible throughout the church as Jessica recalled memories of her life with Chris, from their first home together, from the hospital in San Antonio and just before he deployed.
Two weeks before Cpl. Bordoni was due to return home, Jessica said, she received the phone call and it was a long four days until she was able to see him in San Antonio, she said. No matter how critical his condition was, she said, everyone was just so happy to see him.
The doctors continued to remind the family how amazing it was and how shocked they were that he had made it that far, she said. As the weeks went by, there were ups and downs, but Jessica said she was at peace and she knew everything would be OK because there was a reason that he was brought home.
While in San Antonio, Jessica said they saw bits and pieces of Chris' personality. One time his physical trainer came in for cognitive therapy and asked him if he was Chris Bordoni, and he shook his head, no. Then she asked if he was Corporal Bordoni and he shook his head, yes.
Chris made it to his one-year wedding anniversary with Jessica, March 27, she said. He made it to see his brother, Casey, and sister, Jackie. He made it to see his mother and father, she said.
But when they started to realize that things were getting more difficult for him, the family got together and the Marines came and pinned him with his Purple Heart.
"It wasn't 10 minutes after they pinned him that his heart beeped for the last time and we knew that was what he was waiting for," Jessica said, as she fought back tears.
A month before Chris left for deployment, Jessica said, the couple bought their first home together in Jacksonville, N.C. Chris loved that more than anything, she said. He had a huge smile on his face when he came inside after mowing the lawn for the first time. The two held hands as they watched their brand new washer and dryer wash their clothes.
"He had that satisfaction, he had that," she said. "It was quick and it was short, but he had it. He was at that peak that I knew he always wanted to be at and he said he always wanted to be at. We made it a year and that is OK because it was intense and it was hard and it was fast and it was for a reason and it was for this reason. And like he says, everything's OK."
More associated videos and stories at the link. Many thanks to The Ithaca Journal for honoring Cpl. Bordoni.