Saturday, May 19, 2007

Colby Umbrell laid to rest

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is activity all around Arlington National Cemetery — even above it.

But the cemetery itself is quiet.

The people who walk through it speak in whispers — if they speak at all.

And shortly after 3 p.m. Friday, the only noises in one section of the cemetery were those of a small band of soldiers marching to the slow, steady beat of a drum.

Those soldiers' footsteps were followed by the clop, clop, clop of six horses' hooves. The horses pulled a caisson carrying a flag-covered casket that held the remains of Army 1st Lt. Colby J. Umbrell.

The horses were followed by cars carrying more than 100 members of Umbrell's family and friends.

Umbrell was killed May 3 — a month after he turned 26 — when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Two other soldiers were in the vehicle. They survived the blast because they were shielded by the mass of the former defensive lineman's body.

The Doylestown paratrooper had been a standout athlete when he played football and ran track at Central Bucks East High School from 1995 to 1999 and at Johns Hopkins University from 2000 to 2004. He later participated in three marathons and a triathlon.

He was also a dedicated soldier who arranged for his fellow troops to receive Christmas gifts and worked with the National Junior Honor Society at Lenape Middle School in Doylestown to collect school supplies for Iraqi children.

He believed strongly in establishing democracy in the Middle East.

And he dreamed of someday going into politics.

He loved Washington — he told his mom it was where the “movers and shakers” were — and he really loved Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

“I'm not sure why he loved Arlington,” said his father, Mark Umbrell. “Probably for the same reasons I did. I was caught up in the history and the emotions and the honor of the people who were there.”

So, after the Umbrells learned two weeks ago of their son's death, they arranged for him to be buried in the historic cemetery.

They held a viewing Sunday and a funeral service Monday in Doylestown.

And they traveled nearly 200 miles to Arlington. There, all of them were dressed in black, crowded under a protective covering near Umbrell's grave site.

In front of them were new graves not yet permanently marked with headstones and recently covered with dirt. And behind them, rows of white headstones crisscrossed the vast expanse of green in the cemetery.

They listened quietly as Chaplain Maj. Claude Brittian spoke.

A contingent of seven soldiers fired three volleys into the air.

Umbrell's family and friends stood as a bugler played taps. The sad, slow notes carried across the field.

The band then played “God Bless America,” and the eight pallbearers ceremoniously folded the flag that covered the casket.

Gen. Michael Vane presented the flag to Umbrell's mother, Nancy, whose face was flushed with tears.

An Arlington Lady, one of the 60 women who volunteer to represent the military at the funerals of servicemen, knelt before her and spoke, as did acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.

They wanted to thank the Umbrell family for their son's service.

And then it was over — about 20 minutes after it had started. Umbrell's parents and siblings lingered a bit while extended family and friends started to walk away.

Colby Umbrell could finally rest.

From the Bucks County Courier Times

Related Link:
Colby Umbrell remembered

Related Link:
Colby J. Umbrell dies of injuries from I.E.D.