LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature and the county’s state lawmakers paid tribute last week to a U.S. Marine from Lewiston who was wounded in combat in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Christopher T. Bristol, 22, was shot in the arm Oct. 10 in Helmand Province, regarded as the home turf of the Taliban, as he was leading a patrol.
Bristol, fully recovered from his wound after surgery, was modest about the matter.
“I’m a humble person,” he said in an interview after the ceremony at Tuesday’s Legislature meeting. “There were guys hurt far worse than I was.”
Specifically, he referred to another corporal who was shot in the thigh, with the bullet exiting through his hip. He returned to active duty quickly, and Bristol said he used that man as a role model.
He told the Legislature that he was the ninth casualty in his platoon “and hardly the most severe … I’ve had friends shot in the legs, shot in the arms, blown up in a truck right behind me. It’s something to think about.”
Bristol is the son of Timothy and Jane Bristol, of Saunders Settlement Road, and the nephew of former Niagara Falls City Administrator Daniel S. Bristol, a retired Air Force colonel, who attended the ceremony.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, read a citation from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston, read a similar document from the Assembly.
“Thank you for making Niagara County proud of one of its finest sons,” Maziarz said.
“You’re truly loved by your mom and dad and everyone in Niagara County,” Ceretto said.
“Tonight you’ve made this a hall of honor,” Legislature Chairman William L. Ross told Bristol. “It’s beyond me what brave soldiers like you had to go through.”
The County Legislature’s citation referred to Bristol’s six months of service in “the toughest province of Afghanistan.”
“It’s a tremendous honor to be honored for a conflict that isn’t the most popular but is still alive and kicking,” Bristol told the lawmakers.
Bristol was home-schooled and earned an associate’s degree from Niagara County Community College.
He said he joined the Marines in August 2011 and was shipped to Afghanistan in June 2012.
He was shot five days after his 22nd birthday in a firefight with the Taliban in Treknawa. His squad of eight Marines and four to six Afghan soldiers was on patrol when one of the Afghans was shot in the right buttocks, Bristol said. The squad was bringing him back to its camp when Bristol was shot.
“I was in the front with the staff sergeant. I was the first man in the patrol with a metal detector,” Bristol said.
The metal detector was used to seek buried explosives. The squad was heading for a canal bed.
“To get to the canal, we had to run through an open field,” Bristol said. “I was working my way through the canal when I heard a round hit the wall behind me. I looked down and saw a hole in my uniform and blood on my arm. I shouted back to the Marine behind me that I had been hit.”
The wound, in his left arm above the elbow, was bound up by a fellow Marine, and the squad made its way on foot to its patrol camp, which was more than a mile away.
Bristol said he was taken to a British army hospital and operated on by a doctor who was also a U.S. Army colonel.
“It was very superficial, soft tissue and a small amount of muscle,” Bristol said.
He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a “V” device.
Bristol returned to light duty in a few days and then to active duty. His squad, from the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, left Afghanistan in late November.
Asked if he is returning to that country, Bristol said, “When we left, we tore down the whole camp, so it’s doubtful. In talking to my platoon mates, if they sent us back, we’d go in a heartbeat.”
But for now, Bristol, who has 3½ years left on his Marine hitch, will return Friday to his station at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to await his next assignment.