For hours after meeting the casket of Lt. Col. Christopher Raible at Dover Air Force Base last week, his parents talked with his fellow Marines about their son, killed on Sept. 14 in a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.
It was no surprise to any of them -- least of all, his family -- that Raible, 40, died while leading a counter-attack that military officials called heroic, preventing worse losses to coalition forces that night.
"It's what I would expect of Chris. He loved the Marine Corps," his father, Al Raible, 65, of North Huntingdon said Sunday. "There was a possibility there would have been more casualties on our side if Christopher hadn't organized the men to fight."
The military reported that about 15 Taliban soldiers cut a fence and slipped onto the airfield at Camp Bastion, a U.K.-run base in Kandahar. When they began attacking the Marines' AV-8B Harrier jets, Raible, commander of Marine Attack Squadron 211, threw on body armor and headed for the combat zone to coordinate the defense.
Raible and another Marine, Sgt. Bradley Atwell, were killed by an explosion. The rest of Raible's team pushed a group of the assailants to a remote area where they could be killed by an air strike.
Raible's father said the Marines his son worked with during the initial counter-attack were mostly technicians and engineers who were assigned to maintain the aircraft the Taliban were destroying.
"Combat fighting wasn't their thing, but they got together and they tried to get the job done," Al Raible said.
Upon arriving at Dover to receive their son's casket, Al Raible said the family was met by many Marines who had served alongside Christopher as pilots.
"One after another, they were talking about their relationships with Christopher," he said. "They were sad, they were funny. It was a mix of that all night. ... It was from the heart.
"They respected him. They thought he was a leader all the time."
Raible's mother, Belvina, known as Kim, said she was working to set up a scholarship fund at S&T Bank in her son's name, and grants would be awarded to Norwin High School students. Funeral arrangements at Arlington National Cemetery are still pending, but the family plans to hold a memorial service in North Huntingdon about a week after that, she said.
"He was everyone's son, and he sacrificed all for everyone's freedom," she said.