June 6th, or what is
better known as D-Day, will long be remembered for the
invasion of Normandy in 1944.
For many, June 6, 1984, the 40th
anniversary of D-Day, is better remembered as the day
Sgt. Christopher R. Hrbek was born.
Westwood, New Jersey, Sgt. Hrbek’s hometown, is
located in Bergen County and has a population of about
is well steeped in small town charm and a lasting sense
of community pride – a perfect playground
for the wildly energetic young man with his ever
engaging personality and contagious smile.
Chris was as handsome as he was friendly –
quick-witted with a heart as big and as bright as the
sun. He was
a boy scout, high school wrestler and an always willing
and confident participant in many school and community
Simply said, Chris enjoyed Westwood and Westwood happily
embraced the kid who never had a bad day!
Chris’s commitment to his community
and his fascination with the fire service was nurtured
at a young age by the countless days he spent tagging
along to the Westwood fire house with his stepfather,
Chris longed for the day when he could join the fire
cadet program at the age of 16, as his interest in the
Marine Corps was steadily growing.
During his sophomore year of high school, Chris
got his wish and joined his friends, Billy and
Melissa, as cadets in the Westwood Volunteer Fire
That year, he also made his first visit to the
local Marine recruiting center.
His interest was immediately piqued and the
challenge to become a United States Marine is one he
would gladly accept.
Chris’s decision and deep rooted
purpose to join the Marines was made clearer by the
horrific events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.
Chris had proudly attended, only three days
earlier, graduation ceremonies for his brother Jim,
who had completed his New York City Fire Academy
September 11th was Jim’s first day as a New
York City firefighter.
On this fateful day, 343 friends and brothers
were tragically lost; thankfully Jim was not one of
them. Nine months later, on his 18th birthday,
Chris’s first order of duty was to report to his
recruiting office and enlist in the United States
waiting two long years Chris’s plan began to take
graduated from Westwood High School later in June
2002, took the FDNY test in December – in preparation
to join Jim after his enlistment was up – and proudly
left for Parris Island in January 2003.
demonstrated, early on as a Marine, his commitment to
outstanding behavior quickly gained him the attention
and respect of his superiors and enabled him to
swiftly move up the ranks.
It was not long before Chris became Sgt. Hrbek
– a trusted leader and a Marine’s Marine who loved
every minute of his service to his country.
While deployed in the Middle East,
Chris was notified by the NYC Fire Department that his
number had come up and his dream of joining the FDNY
would become a reality.
Sgt. Hrbek deferred his opportunity, however,
and reenlisted in the Marines for two more years.
Again, 1˝ years later, the FDNY called and
again he deferred.
This time, Sgt. Hrbek reenlisted for four
years, all along knowing that his dream of being a
fireman could be in jeopardy.
But this “Happy Warrior’s” work as a Marine was
not quite done.
Sgt. Hrbek received his paperwork in March 2009
advising him that he would deploy to Afghanistan that
He planned to put an exclamation mark on his career
and complete Drill Instructor training upon his return
in May 2010.
Chris intended to finish his 10 years with the
Marine Corps as a Drill Instructor at Parris Island,
South Carolina, where he would proudly mold many young
men into United States Marines.
Only then would he finally be ready to fulfill
his dream of becoming a firefighter for the City of
was different than any other deployment.
Sgt. Hrbek and his battery found themselves
under constant attack.
Their patrols were dangerous and injuries
On December 23, 2009, during one such patrol outside
the wire, Sgt. Hrbek witnessed a Sgt. Major step on an
Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
The Sgt. Major suffered critical injuries,
including the loss of both of his legs.
While under heavy fire, Sgt. Hrbek and a Navy
Corpsman quickly assessed the situation and
immediately ran to the aid of the Sgt. Major
administering what would later amount to life saving
medical assistance; controlling the loss of blood and
swiftly moving the Sgt. Major and two other less
seriously injured Marines to waiting helicopters.
Chris recounted this heroic act during his call
home on Christmas Day, as though it was nothing.
He was just doing what he had been trained to
actions on December 23rd earned him the
Bronze Star with Valor.
On January 14, 2010, three weeks after his
heroic actions, Sgt. Christopher R. Hrbek was again on
patrol in Helmand Province when the vehicle he was
riding in hit an IED.
Sgt. Hrbek exited the vehicle to assess the
damage and to check for secondary explosive devices,
as the safety of his men always came first.
Sgt. Hrbek stepped on an IED and was killed
He was 25 years old.
Sgt. Hrbek returned home to Westwood
for the last time on January 21, 2010.
town’s sense of pride was on full display this day as
they welcomed their hero home.
The streets, as far as you could see, were
lined with American flags of all sizes, while
countless firemen and military brothers joined with
thousands of grateful residents to pay tribute and say
Sgt. Christopher R. Hrbek had a plan.
He lived his life with pride, determination and
honor. He was fearless in his pursuits and had an
insatiable appetite for adventure.
Above all, Sgt. Hrbek always knew how to have
story and his inspiration will live on forever.
- Written by Sgt. Hrbek's Mother, Cheryl
A SPECIAL THANK YOU FROM SGT. HRBEK'S FAMILY