Chris Tilghman was born on December 2, 1959 in Auckland, New Zealand. He grew up in Kailua, Hawaii where he graduated from Kalaheo High School in 1977. Chris enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January, 1979, being sworn in by his father. He initially served as an Aviation Boatswain's Mate, serving in Sicily, Republic of the Philippines, and Crete. He was selected as a Second Class Petty Officer as a SEAL candidate and began Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training (BUD/S) in June 1987.
Petty Officer Tilghman graduated in December 1987 with BUD/D Class 147, a starting class of over eighty students of which only twenty-four finished the training. He reported to SEAL Team FOUR. He was promoted to First Class Petty Officer and subsequently designated Naval Special Warfare qualified in August of 1988. He completed numerous Warfare Schools and Operations, of note being "HALO" (High Altitude-Low Opening) Parachute Training and a deployment to the Persian Gulf.
In December 1989, the United States conducted combat operations in the Republic of Panama, and SEAL Team FOUR was among the first to respond. Petty Officer Tilghman was the Leading Petty Officer of a Combat Contingency Platoon, and his platoon was assigned to block General Manuel Noriega's escape from Panama. In the early morning hours of 20 December 1989, Chris Tilghman was killed in action leading his fellow SEALS in combat. His heroism under fire and outstanding leadership against a numerically superior enemy were directly responsible for the destruction of Noriega's personal jet aircraft and led to his capture by United States Forces. BM1 Chris Tilghman was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Distinguishing Device for valor. His heroic actions were above and beyond the Call of Duty and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Navy.
Petty Officer First Class Tilghman is survived by his parent; Taylor Tilghman LCDR USCG (RET); sister Joanna Fletchall; and brothers Jeffery Tilghman, Richard Tilghman LT USN, and Stephen Tilghman. His personal decorations include: Bronze Star with "V" Distinguishing Valor, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal (2 awards), Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Expert Rifle and Pistol Medals.