Christopher Coffin’s death is currently under investigation.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) – An Army reservist killed while assisting in rebuilding efforts in Iraq was remembered during a funeral service Tuesday as a devoted family man and a dedicated soldier.

First Sgt. Christopher Coffin’s brother and two sisters stepped forward during the service to pay tribute to their brother on what would have been his 52nd birthday.

“He was a damn good solider, an outstanding sergeant, my best friend and a completely devoted and adoring husband,” said Tom Coffin, Christopher Coffin’s brother and an Air Force reservist.

The death of Coffin, of Kennebunk, Maine, is currently under investigation, two of his commanding officers said before the service at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The Army initially told Coffin’s wife that he died when his vehicle ran into a ditch outside Baghdad on July 1. But the Army also reported that another member of his unit, the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, died in an ambush.

“He (Coffin) died as the result of a traffic accident. The investigation is still ongoing,” Command Sgt. Major John Cannon said.

Major Learie H. George called Coffin “a quiet, professional, citizen soldier.” He remembered Coffin showing pictures of his dog, Samantha, and talking about his wife, Betsy. “He called her every chance he got,” George said.

Coffin, a veteran soldier who also had served in Kosovo, and his wife renewed their wedding vows at the church three years ago.

Photographs from that service, Coffin’s childhood, skiing trips and military service were mounted on poster-board inside the small red-brick church.

Betsy Coffin wept throughout the service.

Her sister, Candy Barr Heimbach, read a statement from Betsy thanking Coffin’s company and the approximately 200 mourners at the service.

The Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, the church’s rector, said Coffin had tried to assure his wife that he would be careful while serving in Iraq.

“I know that Chris was worried that one of these deployments overseas would be this kind of tragedy,” Knisely said in a sermon.

An honor guard from the Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pa., escorted Coffin’s flag-draped casket outside the church for a brief military tribute.

They presented Betsy Coffin with her husband’s bronze star before shooting their rifles in salute, playing “Taps” and handing her the folded American flag.

AP-ES-07-08-03 1707EDT



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