Recipient Profile

Meet Christopher Wolff

Christopher Wolff crossing the finish line at a Spartan race.
Credit: Christopher Wolff

My name is Christopher Wolff and if you had told me 25 years ago that a life in service was my calling, I would have told you you were crazy. A family vacation in September 2001 was the beginning of how I would become this guy. One missed ferry ride in Staten Island led to me being in the middle of the Hudson River when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. At 18 years old I witnessed the most horrific act of terrorism I had ever seen in my lifetime and that day I knew that the rambunctious kid with a two inch discipline file from high school had an opportunity to serve God and Country in a way I had never imagined.

My first deployment was to Iraq in 2002 from my duty station in Ramstein, Germany. We were the first wave of troops to put boots on the ground in Tallil, Iraq before we waged war. My airwing was logistics and troop support for Operation Enduring Freedom. My second tour to Iraq was continued logistical support as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 where I served as an aircraft maintainer primarily. Between my second and third deployments to Iraq, I served with a unit that aided in tsunami relief in Thailand while stationed in Korea from 2004-2005.

My third Iraq deployment was in 2005 where we were responsible for casualty transport. To this day every time I attend a military funeral I am brought back to my time on the aircraft where the silence deepens your love for humanity and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. My fourth deployment was my first to Afghanistan in 2006 where we moved troops and equipment from Qatar to forward operating bases in Afghanistan. Taking a short break from the Middle East, I was able to go on what I still consider my favorite mission and that was Operation Deep Freeze. In early 2007 I spent two weeks working with the National Science Foundation in Antarctica. I had just put SSgt on and was loving this new adventure when a misstep and lack of proper safety equipment led to me falling off the fuselage of a C-17 and broke both bones in my left calf.

After nine months of recovering post-operative to repair the bones and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles, I was ready to get back to my mission. Two more deployments followed in Afghanistan in 2007-2008 where I served to repair and maintain aircrafts needed for inflight medical evacuation as their flying crew chief. The third tour to Afghanistan ended much like any other where upon returning home we received a little down time and the seasonal vaccines meant to keep us from getting sick and remain mission ready.

Shortly after receiving the Influenza vaccine in November 2008, I woke up paralyzed from the neck down. The virus from the shot had attacked the myelin sheath of my spinal column and it was attacking my nerves from the bottom up. I was placed into a medically induced coma where the prognosis was grim but it was the only hope that it would save my life, but not the quality of it. That coma lasted 33 days and when I woke up I was told that I would never eat, drink, walk, or do anything on my own ever again. It has taken me years to fight back, years to find the faith that I questioned in that moment, I mean why would God bring me this far just to end my career like this. If I have been reminded of anything from this experience it would be the following: that if God brings you to it He’s going to bring you through it. And has He ever. I have been able to take my service well beyond the uniform that I still wear on my heart every minute of every day and He has reminded me that He is still in control when I definitely spent some years trying to bargain with Him just to let me walk again.

It has been over 14 years now and I have a beautiful family. I married Kellie in 2015 and we have 3 Wolff Cubs: Karlie, Garyn and Patton. I love challenging my physical limits by doing obstacle course races, skydiving, and anything I can do with my active and retired brother/sisters and the disabled community.

For me the ReWalk would be freedom from pain and I wouldn’t be missing out on so much of my families life and activities from being stuck in bed dealing with pain of being paralyzed and constantly seated. It would also mean a hope that I might be able to keep up with my children as they grow because the years are going by so fast with them.