Chris Petersen is a 1998 graduate of LCHS and a former Palm Crest Panther.
I met Chris when he was in elementary school and I was an elementary school mom. He was a lanky, good-natured kid who grew up here in La Cañada Flintridge. His parents, Martha and Paul, are pretty cool, as well.
Ten years ago, Chris enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was promptly deployed to Iraq. His folks and the rest of us held our breaths and Chris came home unscathed. He finished college and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Chris recently mentioned that he only attended four Marine Corps Birthday Balls in his ten years of service, so I guess a few deployments got in the way. The annual Birthday Ball is an awesome event, not to be missed, if only for the cake. Everyone stands at attention, they sing the Marines Hymn while the cake is escorted into the room. The oldest and youngest Marines follow. No other branch of service has such a long-standing and honorable tradition.
Once Chris was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, he was deployed again. Frankly, I've lost track of his deployments in the past ten years.
His current assignment is special and unique. Capt. Petersen and his beautiful wife live in Hawaii, where he is assigned to lead a team for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command ("JPAC").
Chris explains that the team is a "joint billet" that includes Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. JPAC's mission is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of the nation's previous conflicts. JPAC personnel recover and identify remains of Americans missing from the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Korean War and World War II.
Chris Petersen is one of 400 active duty military personnel and Department of Navy Civilians assigned to JPAC. The JPAC laboratory, known as the "Central Identification Laboratory," is the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world.
Capt. Petersen spends much of his time on the road. The JPAC teams deploy to countries throughout Asia, the Pacific, Europe, as well as to sites in the United States, where they canvas, interview witnesses, investigate sites and recover remains.
Capt. Petersen says that, "The honor of serving with this command has been one of the highlights of my time in the Marine Corps."
Just this year, JPAC teams searched areas in Vietnam (Quang Binh and Quang Nam provinces), South Korea (Kyonggi province), Papua New Guinea and Kiribati (Battle of Tarawa). In 2009, JPAC identified 98 individuals. There were 26 from the Korean War, 19 from the Vietnam War and 53 from World War II.
When remains are recovered, there are formal arrival ceremonies at JPAC headquarters at Hickham Air Base with a joint service honor guard and senior officers from each service.
Capt. Chris Petersen, USMC, says, " I am privileged to be a part of our nation's mission to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans."
Tower of Tuna: The current count of tuna cans is 22. Brenner invites you to bring one can of tuna to the Valley Sun offices located at 727 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada. Office hours are 8:30 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The tuna will be donated to a food pantry.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.