Chris Coffland: An American Hero Cpl. Chris Coffland '88 was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Nov. 13, 2009. His death inspired the founding of Catch a Lift, a charity helping wounded post 9/11 combat veterans.
Cpl. Chris Coffland, a member of Washington and Lee University’s Class of 1988, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Nov. 13, 2009. He had joined the Army Reserve only a month before turning 42, the enlistment cut-off date.
As Greg Esposito ’00 wrote in a posthumous profile of Coffland in the Summer 2010 W&L alumni magazine, “After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Coffland looked into joining the military but was told he was too old. When, years later, he discovered he could join the reserves and would likely serve in a battle zone, he reasoned that his presence would keep another person — perhaps someone with children — out of harm’s way.”
An intelligence specialist, Coffland had volunteered for the mission on which he and two others were killed by an improvised explosive device.
His death inspired the founding of Catch a Lift, a charity helping wounded post-9/11 combat veterans to regain physical and mental fitness through gym memberships and home equipment.
A “CBS Evening News” story broadcast this week on Veterans Day illustrated how Catch a Lift helps veterans to hit the gym to heal their bodies and minds.
The organization also received the 2015 Top-Rated Nonprofits award from GreatNonprofits in recognition of its success in service to wounded veterans and in stewardship of donated funds. GreatNonprofits provides reviews and ratings of nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S.
Catch a Lift takes its name from Coffland’s trademark saying, “I’m goin’ catch a lift,” meaning he was off to the nearest gym to exercise, in keeping with his philosophy that physical fitness leads to mental fitness, which in turn makes possible service to others.
Coffland’s life — as an intercollegiate athlete, a doctoral student, an artist, a professional football player in Finland, a coach on three continents, an Army Specialist and a recipient of seven medals, including two Bronze Stars for bravery and a Purple Heart — continues to inspire and help people long after his departure from the scene.
For more about Chris Coffland, see these other stories we’ve written about him, on this website and in the alumni magazine:
- “He Always Came to Play: Chris Coffland ’88, 1966-2009” (W&L alumni magazine)
- Bridge Dedicated to W&L Veteran (W&L website)
- Memorial Gates Plaque Honors Chris Coffland ’88 (W&L website)
- Chris Coffland Continues to Inspire (W&L website)
- Chris Coffland ’88 Buried at Arlington (W&L website)