Nathan Krissoff with the rescued hostage, Photo Credit: Krissoff Family

By Anna Selman, Programs and Public Relations Coordinator

The story of Nathan and Bill Krissoff is an amazing story, but it is not the typical generational military story that you are likely to hear.   Nowadays, Jewish service members, like the rest of the United States, tend to serve in “generational military families” – that is people who serve tend to have a parent or both parents that serve.  However, the story of the Krissoffs is a bit different.

Nathan Krissoff, a Jewish native of Nevada, joined the Marines after being told that he was too young to work at the CIA – he wanted to be on the “front line” of the Global War on Terror.  Nathan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in August of 2004.

In August 2006, First Lieutenant (1LT) Nathan Krissoff and his unit deployed to Iraq.  Shortly after arriving in Iraq, 1LT Krissoff wrote home: “Almost five years to the day after September 11, 2001, I have the chance to put my money where my mouth is in terms of service…. I’m constantly reminded of that famous quote from Tom Hanks’ character at the end of Saving Private Ryan: “Earn this.” Earning it will mean sacrifice, determination, doing my job to the best of my ability. I chose this, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

During his deployment, 1LT Krissoff led a Human Intelligence Exploitation Team sub-team on 8 different battalion operations and participated in 30 combat patrols.  During one mission, his intelligence skills were key to freeing an Iraqi national that was held hostage by terrorists.  On December 9, 2006, 1LT Krissoff volunteered to participate on an intelligence mission in the Al Amiriyah and Al Faris area of Fallujah, Iraq.  As his unit was returning to base, 1LT Krissoff’s vehicle was hit by an IED when the Humvee drove over explosives that had been buried in a dry riverbed. Nathan, who was sitting in the right rear seat, took the brunt of the blast.  He was only 4 months into his 9 month deployment.

His funeral was held in his hometown of Reno, NV.   His brother, Austin, had just graduated for Marine Officer Candidate School when Nathan deployed.  Austin, his parents, grandparents and hundreds of Reno natives were in attendance at Nathan’s funeral.

Lt Cmdr Bill Krissoff official swearing in ceremony, Photo Credit: Task and Purpose

After the funeral, there was a message on Dr. Bill Krissoff’s orthopedic office.  It told patients that Dr. Krissoff was no longer seeing patients because he had joined the U.S. Navy in order to finish his son’s mission to take care of Marines.  This came about after President Bush went to Reno to give a speech months after Nathan had passed away, and he met the Krissoffs afterwards.  President Bush asked the family if there was anything that he could do for him, and Nathan’s father, Bill told him that he wanted to enlist to finish his son’s deployment.

Leaving his profitable practice, Dr. Bill Krissoff was sworn in as a Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr) in the U.S. Navy in 2007.  After completing his training with the U.S. Navy, Lt. Cmdr Krissoff arrived in Iraq to finish his son’s 7 month deployment.  According to Krissoff, it was a culture shock to be there – the C-130s spiraling in to avoid getting shot, the blast walls surrounding the hospital “like something out of Mad Max.”  Most of the surgeries Krissoff saw weren’t that different from what he was handling back in Truckee – knees and shoulders injured in training.

After weeks from getting back from his deployment to Iraq, Lt. Cmdr Krissoff signed up for another deployment, but this time to Afghanistan.  Krissoff arrived at Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan as the battle for Marjah was kicking off in February 2010.  In his time in Afghanistan, Krissoff served as the primary or assistant surgeon on 225 serious casualties, including countless amputations.  Marines coming into Bastion with a heartbeat had a 97 percent chance of making it to the next facility alive.

Lt. Cmdr Krissoff continued to serve for six years, and he feels that he did finish what Nathan started.  “In most families, dad inspires sons. In our family, sons inspire dad,” Krissoff said.  One thing is definitely known for sure, Lt. Cmdr Krissoff definitely did “Earn It”.

Volume 72. Number 3. Fall 2018