Published March 18. 2008 4:00AM Updated September 14. 2009 3:39PM
A lanky 6-foot-4, Christopher Hoskins sometimes went by the nickname "Spider" or "Spidee," but unlike the eight-legged creature he was never one to sit still and wait for something good to come his way.
"As a kid, he was always in motion," said his mother, Claudia Hoskins of Danielson, where Christopher and her other three children grew up. "He always wanted to explore life, in it, over it."
As a teenager, he didn't go for group sports, but he did enjoy karate and wrestling. He also used to go to a local gym that had a trampoline, his mother recalled, to practice flips and tumbling moves. He was a devoted older brother to Sean, now 18.
At Killingly High School, Christopher was not a stellar student, his mother said, so he decided the best way for him to move his life forward would be to join the Army. In his first attempt at the entrance test, though, he didn't score high enough to be accepted. But he wasn't willing to give up, and an Army recruiter kept him motivated to study and try again in a few months.
"He was going from job to job then, at Staples, then at one of the casinos," his mother said. "He knew they were go-nowhere kind of jobs."
By January 2003, he had passed the Army test and enlisted and was headed to Fort Benning in Georgia for boot camp.
"He thrived in that atmosphere, because of the discipline, even though it was hard work tolerating the heat and humidity," his mother said. "He really matured there. It seemed like he grew an inch and a half taller."
After boot camp, he went to an Army base in South Korea for infantry training, knowing he would soon be sent to Iraq. When one of the commanders sought volunteers to complete a company being sent to Iraq, Christopher raised his hand. He joined a unit as a driver and crewman on a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
During his 11 months in Iraq, he would write and call home as often as he could — usually at 3 or 4 a.m. here — and frequently sent e-mails to his older sister, Kristin Mayo, who lives in Ohio. He described life as grueling. It was often over 100 degrees, they would be on duty for 14 hours at a time, and they could only shower once every four days.
"He said sand and grit would get into every fold of your skin, and he was frustrated that there weren't enough supplies and the equipment was crap," his mother said. She sent him care packages of special earplugs to protect his hearing, as well as snack foods, batteries and CDs and DVDs.
Christopher, 21, was killed during a mission in Ramadi, when he was in the lead vehicle of five moving through an area notorious for roadside bombings. His vehicle exploded, and when he and the other six crewmen tried to escape, they were hit by machine gun fire. He and two others in the unit died.
"We got three footlockers of his stuff sent home from Iraq," his mother said. "He kept everything people sent him."
His mother, a nursing instructor at Three Rivers Community College, had dealt with death and dying many times when she worked in a hospital, but nothing prepared her for losing her son. Comfort has come, she said, from other military families and from the soldiers her son served with who have contacted her. Last year she and other military families met with President Bush when he spoke at the Coast Guard Academy commencement, an encounter she described as "amazing and gut-wrenching. But I was glad I did it."
In addition to his brother, older sister and mother, Christopher is survived by his younger sister, Erin, and his father, Richard Hoskins, also of Danielson. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.