A military honor guard accompanies the flag-draped casket of 1st Lt. Robert Seidel III. Hundreds walked Monday afternoon on South Seton Avenue from the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to the St. Joseph's
Roman Catholic Church New Cemetery next door.
(5/30) American flags lined the road to the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, where hundreds of people gathered Monday morning to attend a funeral, to share their sorrow and to pay tribute to a young man known to many as a
hero. Some 800 people arrived at the basilica for the 11 a.m. funeral service for U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Seidel III, who was killed May 18 while on routine patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, when the Humvee he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device.
Nearly every seat inside the basilica was taken, and some people stood along the wall in the mezzanine during the service. Many had buttons showing Lt. Seidel's photo pinned to their lapels.
His coffin, draped in a white cloth with a gold strip running down the middle, was placed just in front of the altar.
Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows. Some mourners dabbed their eyes with tissues as they described Lt. Seidel as a man of selflessness, dignity, integrity and honor; a man who loved being a soldier and exemplified what it meant to be an
The Rev. James Kiernan, a former pastor at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, of which the basilica is a part, led the funeral.
"Robert's good life is an inspiration that comforts us," he said. "May his spirit of goodness ... his spirit of selflessness, his boldness to be of service be with us for the rest of our days."
A man for every mission
Maj. Jeff Logan sponsored Lt. Seidel at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where Lt. Seidel graduated in 2004. The two also served together in Iraq.
Maj. Logan told of a dark night in Iraq when he heard a knock on the door of his trailer. Lt. Seidel and another young man were standing outside.
They came in, and the three talked for two hours, Maj. Logan said. During their conversation, Lt. Seidel said he had not changed his uniform in three weeks. Although it was in desperate need of a wash, the young man said he was so proud to wear the
uniform that he had no intention of changing into different clothes.
"He loved everything about his job, and he was not afraid of anything," Maj. Logan said, his voice quivering slightly as he recalled Lt. Seidel setting up a Christmas tree at West Point and enjoying Army football games. "He believed ... everything we
are doing in Iraq right now was making things better. Robbie will truly be missed, but all the memories left with us will be cherished forever."
Ed Wyatt, Lt. Seidel's uncle, read evaluations of his nephew's performance in the military, which characterized him as a disciplined, impressive leader.
"Robert is the man for every mission," Mr. Wyatt read.
Catoctin High School football coach Doug Williams read from an essay Lt. Seidel, a 2000 Catoctin graduate, wrote as part of his application to West Point.
The young man wrote that he was fully aware of the possible dangers of enrolling in the military, and he was willing to sacrifice his life for his country if necessary.
"I know that with every flag draped coffin, there are many children who (may) live their lives in peace," Mr. Williams read.
A star and a flag
Before the close of the service, the Seidel family was given a Bronze Star, which was awarded to Lt. Seidel for his service.
As the 800 people inside sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Lt. Seidel's coffin was carried from the church in a solemn procession to St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, next to the basilica.
Lt. Seidel was buried with full military honors in the quiet green cemetery under a blazing sun. Leaves and American flags rustled lightly in the breeze as members of the U.S. Army Color Guard fired a salute and folded an American flag, which they
presented to the Seidel family.