Sgt. 1st Class Todd Kristoff joined the Army on June 6, 1983, to be like his Uncle Bob and Uncle Fred.
His Uncle Fred, who is now 94 years old, was in the 4th Infantry Division and hit the beaches of Normandy, he said during a retirement ceremony last week in Fairfield. Uncle Bob was a Korean War veteran, and jumped into Korea with the 11th Airborne.
“That’s what both my uncles did, and that’s what I wanted to be,” Kristoff said he told an Army recruiter on Dixie Highway three decades earlier.
Actually, he told a crowded Fairfield City Council chamber, it was more like: “I want to jump out of airplanes and I want to blow stuff up.”
At 17 years old, Kristoff was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Brag, N.C. — “Best division in the United States Army,” he says — and went to school to be a combat engineer.
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WATCH: View the retirement ceremony for Sgt. 1st Class Todd Kristoff
Kristoff’s family moved from Forest Park to Fairfield in 1979, and he graduated from Fairfield High School in 1983. Because of his wild youth, he recalled his dad said he had three choices: “six feet under, prison or the military.”
“It was a normal weekend thing where the police would take me home, or something else would happen,” he said.
He initially wanted to join the Marines, but they were out to lunch the day he went to enlist, so he started talking with the Army recruiter in the office.
After serving four years in the Army, he joined the United States Army Reserves until 2000 and then joined the Ohio Army National Guard until his retirement on Nov. 3, 2015.
In Kristoff’s 32 years of service, he’s served six combat tours of duties, including in Iraq.
Tuesday meant a lot for the 50-year-old. He never received a ceremony from the Ohio National Guard when he retired on Nov. 3, 2015. He wore his emotions on his face Tuesday, and the appreciation could be heard in his voice when he told the Journal-News what that ceremony meant to him.
The normally talkative and animated man could only muster: “Honored. Very, very honored.”
When Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller heard that one of Fairfield’s sons would not be receiving an earned honor, he organized the ceremony, bringing in others, including Fairfield’s VFW Post 1069.
“It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: Here in Fairfield we don’t just say we support our military we show it. And this is one of those ways we show it,” he said.
Miller proclaimed this past Wednesday, July 13, 2016, as “Sgt. 1st Class Todd Kristoff Day” in the city of Fairfield.
And Butch Frederick, commander of VFW Post 1069, said it’s always a welcomed opportunity “to celebrate a military life, a military career while the warrior is still with us.”
Tuesday was the retirement ceremony Kristoff said he wanted, and Miller said he couldn’t be more proud that he is from Fairfield.
Kristoff responded, “I can’t either.”
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