Tomb DatesJul 1984 - Aug 1985
ObituaryRolf Christenson was born in Decorah, Iowa, and entered service in the U.S. Army on July 27, 1983. He served with distinction with several elite units to include the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) in Washington, D.C. where he was selected to be a Sentinel (Tomb Guard) and later Relief Commander at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. He was also on Secretary of Defense Security Detail for Secretary Weinberger. Rolf later served with C Co/2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was a squad leader and platoon sergeant during overseas combat operations for Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War. Later in his tour with the 82nd Airborne, Rolf served as an instructor with the Division's Airborne Leaders Course, Scout Recon & Surveillance Course, Pre-Ranger Course, and Rappel Master Course. Because of his most outstanding performance of duty and excellent reputation, Rolf was selected as Platoon Sergeant and later 1st Sergeant of the 18th Airborne Corps' Long Range Surveillance Company where he served for three years. He was reassigned to B Company, 5th Ranger Training Battalion at Camp Frank D. Merrill on September 25, 1993. Rolf served as a Mountain Ranger Phase Primary Instructor, Platoon Trainer, Senior Walker, and Acting First Sergeant. During his time at Camp Merrill, Rolf trained, mentored, and molded a great many Ranger students and cadre as well. Enroute to a parachute training operation in February 1997, Rolf was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. His loss to the Ranger Community was immediately felt. Rolf was well respected and admired by all who knew him. He had been selected for promotion to Master Sergeant. His many awards include the Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Master parachutist Badge, pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, Tomb Guard Badge, and Australian Army Parachute Badge. In addition to his Regular Army Infantry training, Rolf graduated from Airborne, Jumpmaster, Pathfinder, and Air Assault schools and was the Honor Graduate of Ranger Class 8-88. He is kept alive in the memories of his family and friends. He is especially remembered by his wife, Kimberly, and son, Dietrich, his mother, Kathryn Christenson and sister, Abigail Christenson. He was buried with Honors on Arlington National Cemetery very near where he once served as a Tomb Guard.
Memories & Condolences
I was Relief Commander of 3rd Relief and had the HONOR of serving with Specialist (then) Rolf Christensen. He was one of the most dedicated and professional soldiers i have had the honor of working with!!! 'Line Six' my brother!!!!!
I met Rolf, when he came to my Platoon in the 82nd - 1st Platoon, C. Co. 2/505th PIR. Rolf had just been assigned to us from 'The Tomb', and at first we gave him a hard time as we did every new soldier or NCO. I was an E-5 at the time and Rolf was a new E-6, and all of us NCO's who had been in Division from day one were suspicious of all new NCO's. Rolf proved to be the epitome of what an NCO should strive to be, he was one of the best I ever saw. It was MY HONOR to have known him, RIP SSG Christenson!
Thinking of U Missing U RLTW
Rolf and I joined Third Platoon Charlie Company in The Old Guard at approximately the same time. We were both new to the Army, and both from Minnesota and became fast friends. We stayed in touch over the years, until his accident. I chalked up the lost contact to both of us relocating in different directions at the same time. I only learned of his tragic passing a decade later, when I happened to stop by the Tomb Quarters for an unscheduled visit while in Arlington. The Commander of the Relief gave me the sad news. Rolf was a great guy. I still run into people who knew him. We all miss him and agree that the world is a better place because of him. RIP Brother.
I had honor to serve with Rolf at the Tomb. He was one of the most dedicated, as well as engaged Sentinels that I had the priviledge to serve with. He constantly asked me questions about the 101st Airborne and my experiences. I remember that he always had a camera with him when he was not the Reliuef working. Above all he was a perfectionist. I wish that we could see into the future, he epitomized what a Sentinel should be. Doug Garrett, Badge #294 (Aug. 1984 - Oct. 1985, 2nd and 3rd Relief)
I was (then) Specialist Christianson's primary trainer when he was a new-man at the Tomb, and he was the first real protege I had yet instructed. For a while, we roomed together in the Tomb Guard Hallway of Echo Co. barracks. He just took his job seriously. As a newman, I often called him 'Christman' (after first burial in what became ANC), as in yelling 'krist-MANN!' It was much later after he attained his badge and could address me Sentinel to Sentinel that he casually mentioned he never liked being called that. It was the protocol that meant something to him, and the humble nature of this small event always reminds me of good little lessons. We also served together during a five-month tour as guards for the Secretary of Defence. In fact, it was over multiple games of ‘Hearts' that he mentioned the Christman thing. During our time there, we co-sponsored and tracked an idea through the official Army Suggestion Program. There was no subdued patch authorized for the camo BDU (as called then). The Army Clothing Board was located right there at the Pentagon, and we tried to ensure nothing got lost in any shuffles over a surprisingly short few months wait. we even trekked over to the Institute of Heraldry to try and influence the possible design. Around summer of 1987, we were awarded the lowest possible Suggestion award-$500.00-and Sentinels since then can thank Gouldin and Christianson if they wear a subdued badge on whatever their daily camo workclothes are now called. I didn't know the rock soldier he became after 1987. I read with wide eyes. I -do- know that in this heinous profession, we need clear and true men doing the awful required tasks...sober men of balance, duty, and some virtue. He carried a palpable sense of honor, effort, and self-discipline wherever he went even then. I knew during training the memory of the Unknowns was going to be well-guarded by him. As we learned—'dolce et decorum est pro patri mori.' I now serve -his- memory also.
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Did you know?
How many steps does the Sentinel take during their 'walk' by the Tomb of the Unknowns and why?
Twenty-one steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.