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Bush salutes doctor who joined the Navy to honor son killed in Iraq

In his farewell address, the president cites Bill Krissoff as among 'the best of our country -- resilient and hopeful, caring and strong.' He is set to go to Iraq with a Marine unit.

January 18, 2009|Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO — When his son, Marine Lt. Nathan Krissoff, was killed two years ago in Iraq, Dr. Bill Krissoff found a unique way to honor his memory.

He closed up his lucrative orthopedic practice in Truckee, Calif., and, at age 60, joined the Navy medical corps in hopes of being assigned to Iraq to treat Marines and other military personnel.

It took presidential intervention to get Krissoff a waiver from the military's age limits on enlistees.

Now, Lt. Cmdr. Krissoff, 62, is on the verge of deploying to Iraq with a Marine unit. And on Thursday night, President Bush -- in his farewell address -- included Krissoff among Americans who display "the best of our country -- resilient and hopeful, caring and strong."

Krissoff's younger son, Austin, is also a Marine officer, now based at Camp Pendleton. He soon will return to Iraq for a second deployment.

"The way I see it, Austin and I are carrying on with Nathan's unfinished business in Iraq," Krissoff said Friday in a telephone call from Camp Lejeune, N.C. "We've picked up the fallen standard."

Krissoff's wife, Christine, will remain in northern San Diego County during the seven-month deployment. Many of their nonmilitary friends do not understand the couple's decision, she said.

"It's not a complicated thing," she said. "It's about serving our country."

Nathan Krissoff was killed Dec. 9, 2006, by a roadside bomb outside Fallouja, west of Baghdad.

Hundreds of Marines, sailors, soldiers and others attended an emotional memorial service at the Marine base in Fallouja where he was praised as a charismatic, courageous officer.

The next August, Bill and Christine Krissoff were among the relatives of service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who were invited to meet the president after his speech to an American Legion convention in Reno.

Bush asked the relatives if there was anything he could do for them. As Karl Rove took notes, Krissoff mentioned that his application to join the Navy seemed to have stalled. Within days, the application was proceeding briskly.

In November 2007, Krissoff was commissioned in the Navy Reserve. In his practice, Krissoff had specialized in arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the shoulder, knee and ankle.

Most of 2008 was consumed by training, including at Camp Pendleton; Twentynine Palms, Calif.; and a stint at the Navy's "urban medicine" program at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where, among other cases, Krissoff worked on five individuals suffering stab wounds to the heart.

He also did a short training deployment to Morocco.

Now he is attached to a medical unit assigned to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, soon to deploy to Iraq.

On Thursday morning, Krissoff got a call from the president.

In his speech, Bush said that Krissoff "will help save America's wounded warriors -- and uphold the legacy of his fallen son."

Krissoff said he has no desire to visit the spot where his son died. Neither does he expect emotional closure.

"If you lose a son or other family member, that's forever," he said.

"When we lost Nathan, that put us on a different path. I'm not looking for closure.

"I'm just looking to do my part."

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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