September 22, 2007
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — It was just a few weeks ago when Alan Pollock sat on his front porch chatting with Christian Neff. They talked about school and the service and myriad other subjects that, in the wake of the news of Neff’s death, seem kind of trivial. “Chris was over at my house just over the summer. He came hunting for my daughter and she wasn’t home, so I sat on the front porch with him and talked for a while,” Pollock said. “That’s what I thought of when I heard, that night on my front porch.” The 19-year-old Army specialist died in an explosion Wednesday while riding in a Humvee on patrol in Iraq. The Army said it was as improvised explosive device that killed him. Sgt. David Kuta, the military’s liaison to Neff’s family, said details are not yet available on exactly how Neff died or when services will be held. “He is in-country and we are anticipating that, hopefully, he’ll be in Ohio early next week,” Kuta said. Neff could be counted on to bring a smile to your face, his family said in a statement released through the Army on Friday. “Chris was a loving and special son, brother, and friend,” the statement said. “His calm nature and ornery smirk warmed the room. He will be so missed.” Neff’s family expressed appreciation for the gestures of sympathy they have received and offered their thoughts and prayers for families “who have lost loved ones while in the service to their country.” Neff has been posthumously promoted from private to specialist, Kuta said. Neff was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. In Iraq, he was an M1 Abrams tank driver and gunner and a Humvee driver. He completed basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. Neff graduated from Apollo Career Center in computer applications programming. Pollock was his teacher. Neff was also friends with Pollock’s daughter, Allison. News of his death came as a shock to a lot of people around his old school, where staff and students spoke Friday of the boy they recalled with a sharp mind and a shy smile. “He was the happy-go-lucky type. He was shy, but once you got to know him, he was funny,” Pollock said. That happy nature didn’t change, even after Neff knew he would be sent to Iraq. During that summertime visit on Pollock’s porch, worries about the war never came up. “He told me he really loved the military and liked what he was doing. But he didn’t seem like he was worried,” Pollock said. His family also said Neff loved the Army and had long shown an interest in guns, fighting and strategy. “It was natural for him to offer service to his country by joining the Army,” his family’s statement said. The students attending Apollo now didn’t go to school with Neff, who graduated in 2006. While some knew him through his sister, Shannon, 17, a student in the school’s health services program, most did not. “I don’t know if it’s affecting them or hitting them as hard as we think. ※ Students here don’t really know him. I don’t know how it will affect them,” Pollock said. Students were talking about Neff on Friday. More accurately, they were talking about his sacrifice, according to Pam Downing. “I think that, when his name has been brought up, I think they’re saddened by his death, but still there is a tremendous respect for him,” Downing said. Downing had that respect for the man well before his death. She served as adviser to the school’s student council, of which Neff was a member. And his commitment and energy for the post stuck with her long after he had moved on. “He was very quiet, but he was a leader nonetheless,” Downing said. “He was the kind who led by example. He was always there for the work as well as the fun.” For those who knew him, the fact that Neff was bright, energetic and genuinely kind makes his death that much harder to take. But it also serves as a reminder of the true cost of war, Pollock said. “You hear about everything going on with the war and you’re kind of numb to it,” Pollock said. “But when something like this happens, it just really hits home ※ it just hurts.” Reporter Heather Rutz contributed to this story.