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Fishing Tournament Celebrates a Soldier and His Sacrifice

The fishing tournament scheduled for this weekend is entering its sixth year.

Hundreds are anticipated to gather this weekend for a fishing tournament held in the memory of a fallen Army soldier from Tiverton. Close friends and the widow of Staff Sgt. Christopher Potts met recently for an interview to reflect on his life and the United States since the attacks of 9/11.

The  takes place through Sunday out of  (822 Anthony Road) in Common Fence Point in Portsmouth. Proceeds from the tournament go toward a memorial fund in Potts’ name, and it is presented by the Aquidneck Island Striper Team.

“The ultimate sacrifice was made,” said Terri Potts, talking about her husband and the tournament. “Celebrate and fish with family and friends so he’s not forgotten. It’s celebrating a great human being, a person who made the great sacrifice.”

She said her son Jackson likes to fish.

“If my husband was here, they’d be out fishing,” Potts added. “My son looks forward to it every year.  I want families to take their kids fishing while they can.”

Sgt. Potts was assigned to the 1st Battalion 103rd Field Artillery Regiment of the Army National Guard. He died in Taji, Iraq on Oct. 3, 2004. He died on his 38th birthday and leaves his wife and two sons.

Sgt. Potts' death occurred during a firefight on the banks of the Tigris River, which ultimately resulted in his brigade’s discovery of a weapons cache.

Potts was on a joint patrol hours before the firefight with Iraqi National Guard (ING) soldiers. The plan for the operation was sparked by an ambush that killed Potts and Sgt. Russell L. Collier of Arkansas.

Overcoming emotion, Potts’ brigade reorganized within 36 hours and went after those responsible by sealing off that area of Taji Village and searching 23 different homes and buildings inside. The brigade ended up discovering an improvised explosive device (IED) manufacturing facility, unearthing 23 120-millimeter mortar rounds, a South African 155-millimeter round and multiple detonation devices.

Leaders of Potts’ brigade said the soldiers used a “brilliant glimpse of professionalism” by going in there for justice instead of revenge. A bond was reportedly strengthened between the American and ING soldiers from the incident, as they worked together to execute the plan.

What resulted was the discovery of the weapons cache and the detaining of more than 50 men for questioning. More than 20 of them were later determined to be involved in anti-Iraq operations, including the trigger man responsible for the deaths of Potts and Collier.

Ms. Potts said since the fishing tournament started, they have raised between $100,000 and $150,000 in her husband’s memory.

Ralph and Shannon Craft, friends of the Potts family, organized the event this year. They met while they were both in training school for the Air Force in the 1990s. Ralph said they were both in Seattle on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in a meeting and someone said something,” he said. “I went back to my office to look at the TV and that’s where the second plane hit. I knew exactly what it was and called my parents. I knew right away this was war.

Ralph said Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the attacks shouldn’t mean Americans who weren’t personally affected should just reflect for one day.  

“It’s like, when you see a veteran, don’t just thank them then [on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day],” he said. “Thank them every day to make them feel grateful.”

Terri said she was at work in Middletown when the planes hit the Twin Towers. She is currently employed as a technical writer.

For young military families dealing with loss, or the disconnection of a spouse being deployed overseas, Terri said to be proud of the cross you have to carry.

“Be proud of wearing that uniform,” added Mr. Craft.

(Historical context was used with credit to the Oct. 24, 2004, volume of The Bowie Edition article titled "Tragedy Leads 39th Brigade Combat Team to Major Discovery," by 1st Lt. Chris J. Heathscott of the team's public affairs office.)

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