‘Truly a man for others’: A DC-area father remembers his son’s legacy as a Navy SEAL

WTOP's Stephanie Gaines-Bryant speaks to Retired Navy Rear Adm. Edward Kristensen about his son, Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kristensen, and his enduring legacy.
Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kristensen graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1995. (Courtesy Edward Kristensen.)

Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kristensen was more than a military man for his father.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Edward Kristensen described his son to WTOP as “truly a man for others.”

“He would do anything to help anyone, friend, foe, whatever,” Edward said. adding that his son had “a sense of humor that was unbelievable.”

In honor of Memorial Day, Edward Kristensen shares his family’s story of service.

Family history of service

Edward Kristensen graduated from the Naval Academy in 1965, who also majored in English and minored in French. He wanted to join the SEAL community at that time, but was not selected.

Despite receiving multiple awards for his leadership and service to the Navy, the elder Kristensen said the most notable thing in his career was supervising the Navy’s portion of the TWA Flight 800 recovery operation in 1996. The mission happened after a plane exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York in July of 1996.

When he retired, Edward settled down in D.C. with his wife Suzanne and their only son Erik. The younger son soon began following his father’s footsteps, graduating from Gonzaga College High School in 1990 and soon attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated in 1995 and became a surface warfare officer.

Erik Kristensen was assigned to come back to the Naval Academy to teach English while working on his master’s degree at St. John’s in Annapolis. However, at 27 years old, he decided to leave his teaching and graduate studies to to pursue an opportunity as a Navy Seal, becoming the oldest in his class to graduate from the program.

Erik Kristensen became a task unit commander for the SEAL Team 10, when he was killed on June 28, 2005, during Operation Red Wings. He volunteered to lead a mission to retrieve four SEALs who were on the ground and under heavy attack by Taliban forces. The Chinook helicopter that he was in was shot down in eastern Afghanistan and 16 people onboard were killed.

Navy Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell was the only one to make it out of the attack alive. He went on to write a book, titled “Lone Survivor,” which became a movie in 2013. Australian actor Eric Bana played the role of Erik Kristensen.

From left to right, Erik Kristensen embraces his father Edward Kristensen. (Courtesy Edward Kristensen)

Remembering Erik Kristensen’s legacy

“He could bring people out of the doldrums and make them smile,” Edward Kristensen said about his son.

Erik Kristensen was a member of the crew team while studying at the Academy, where he is currently buried. His grave site is in view of Hubbard Hall, the home of the crew team.

The former SEAL was honored on May 17 in The Kristensen Klassic, a golf tournament in support of a scholarship program at Gonzaga College High School, at the Club at P.B. Dye in Ijamsville, Maryland.

On Memorial Day, he and others will be remembered through a special Run to Honor 1 Mile Walk and Run event at the USNA Cemetery, which is by Erik Kristensen’s grave site. Visitors without access to the base can walk onto the base through Gate 1.

E-Day, a day created by family members to honor the life of Erik Kristensen, will be held on Saturday, June 29, at White Marsh in Bowie, Maryland.

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Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant is an Anchor and Reporter for WTOP. Over the past 20 years, Stephanie has worked in several markets, including Baltimore, Washington, Houston and Charleston, holding positions ranging from newscaster to morning show co-host.

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