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Army Pvt. Christopher Palmer, 22, Sacramento; Killed in Afghanistan

Times Staff Writer

Even as a 6-year-old, Christopher Palmer loved airplanes -- all kinds of airplanes.

“Any kind of airplane he could find, we had here in this house,” Annie Palmer, his mother, said with a slight chuckle. “He used to tell me, ‘Mom, I’m going to jump out of a plane someday.’ ”

Years later, the Sacramento native would get his chance to be an Army paratrooper as a member of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy.

Pvt. Palmer, 22, was killed in the predawn hours of Aug. 21 near Baylough, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device exploded near his Humvee. A passenger in the vehicle as it patrolled the area, he was one of four soldiers who died in the blast.

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He had been in Afghanistan since March, his mother said, serving a second tour of duty. Palmer had previously spent a year in Iraq.

Annie Palmer said her son left home for basic training at Ft. Benning, Ga., on Sept. 10, 2001. The following day, when hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, she remembers knowing that her son would have to fight in a war.

“When Sept. 11 happened, I think part of me just went away,” she said. The next time she and her husband, Clemmie, saw their son, in February 2003, he told them he was headed to Iraq.

At Cordova High School, where he graduated in 2000, Palmer played football and soccer and was a member of the wrestling team. He had a brown belt in taekwondo and enjoyed lifting weights.

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In addition, “he loved to break-dance -- and he was quite good at it too,” Annie Palmer recalled.

As a teenager, Palmer was quiet and polite, she added, always addressing those older than he was as “sir” or “ma’am.” She remembered with pride the day she took him with her to work at McClellan Air Force Base, where she used to be a civilian employee.

Co-workers “kept looking at him and looking at me and they said, ‘This is your son?’ They couldn’t believe he was the perfect kid.

“He was something,” Annie Palmer said. “Everybody he met loved Christopher. He just had this magnetic personality.”

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Palmer joined the military because “he figured this would be the best way for him to do what he wanted to do,” she said. After leaving the Army, he told his family, he wanted to join the San Diego Police Department and serve on its SWAT team.

In letters and phone calls from Iraq and Afghanistan, his mother said, he would tell his family of the strong sense of duty he felt toward his job. He also would give them his impressions of those countries.

“Coming from a land of plenty, he was just blown away on how some of the people lived” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Annie Palmer said. “He would say, ‘They walk in the street -- kids with no shoes, scouring in garbage for food.’ That really broke him up.”


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