Spotlight on Service: Barb Christie
Barb Christie knows the military. She began her 20 year career in the Air Force as an air traffic control officer. And while she spent the last four years of her career doing program and budget planning at the Pentagon, along the way she served as Executive Officer to a number of general officers, held the post of squadron section commander and filled the role of Base Director of Administration.
Barb retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and began her second career as a full time Marine Corps wife to Colonel Richard A. Christie and although she enjoyed her time in the Air Force, Barb says it was in this role that she found real meaning. “There’s just something special about mentoring young wives— helping them find their footing, discover their talents, strengths and abilities, and grow into confident, self-assured women making amazing contributions to their communities,” she said. “I loved every minute of it!”
Barb’s world changed in 2003 when she lost Rick to a long battle with cancer. “It was not a traditional warrior’s death, but his own private war, nonetheless—one well-fought, without complaint.” Barb wanted to do something meaningful in Rick’s memory. To honor his commitment to education, she established the Colonel Richard A. Christie Memorial Fund. When the New GI Bill was passed a few years ago, Barb decided that the bill’s provisions more than filled the gap between benefits and college costs. She redirected her efforts. By then, the fund had helped five Marines through college.
“I don’t remember when I first heard about TAPS,” Barb said. “Like most survivors I didn’t remember much of anything in the fog of that fresh, raw grief.” It was several years before Barb came across the TAPS materials as she was going through some old paperwork. She decided to see what the national seminar was all about. “I was blown away!” she recalled. “The TAPS staff had thought of everything!” It was then that Barb knew she wanted to be involved with TAPS.
Over the years, Barb has been a true TAPS champion. She became a Run and Remember Team member when she ran the Marine Corps Marathon’s 10K a few years ago and has reached out to other survivors to help them navigate their own grief journeys. Barb continues to be a source of inspiration to those who know her.
This past spring, Barb called to volunteer at the 17th Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar. “I had already heard great things about Barb when she called me,” said Natalie Milani, TAPS Director of Volunteer Services. “It didn’t matter what the task was. She just wanted to help, and I could tell it was an offer from the heart.” Natalie had just the job for her. Barb was asked to manage the TAPS Boutique during the seminar. She embraced her mission and, with the help of a number of wonderful volunteer assistants, managed to make this the most successful TAPS store in its 17 year history.
Barb was thrilled with her assignment. “Everybody’s good at something,” she said. “I just happen to be annoyingly organized, so this job was a good fit for me.” She especially enjoyed the opportunity it gave her to meet fellow TAPS survivors as they stopped by to pick up remembrances of their time in Washington.
TAPS has already invited Barb back to run the store next Memorial Day Weekend. Stop by and say hello and when you do, let her know there’s nothing annoying about her organizational skills.