Monday, May 28, 2007

Robert H. Dembowski dies of 'wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire'

The day before their son died, Fran and Robert Dembowski Sr. received a white and blue U.S. Army flag specifically made for Robert Dembowski Jr. while he served in Iraq

They put it on display at the Northampton Township municipal building alongside the flags of other Northampton military personnel serving in the Middle East.

It was supposed to stay there until Robert came home, safe and sound.

But on Thursday, the news came. Robert died somewhere around Baghdad, perhaps by a sniper, but the information is still sketchy, the family said.

Dembowski is the fourth soldier from Bucks to die in four weeks. He is the 15th Bucks soldier to die in Iraq since the war began in 2003.

The day before her son died, Fran Dembowski sent an e-mail to him telling him about the flag ceremony, according to Northampton Supervisor Peter Palestina.

"She said he was elated," Palestina said. During a phone interview Friday, Palestina held back tears.

"The last thing I said to the mom [at the flag ceremony] was, ‘Look, everyone [from Northampton] has come back safe and sound. And before you know it, I’m sure Bob is going to come back to get his flag," Palestina said. "And then to find out. We just did it for this kid ... and it hurts. It hurts."

The Dembowski family declined a request for an interview Friday afternoon. Their door held a yellow sign asking the media to give them privacy.

A 2005 graduate of Council Rock High School-North and the Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Dembowski was known as Bobby in his younger years.

He served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division. He had a deep love for the United States and for its veterans, according to people who knew him.

"He was an outgoing, enthusiastic student who never failed to take the opportunity to express his pride in America," a Council Rock schools press release stated Friday.

Dembowski told the Courier Times in 2005 he wasn’t afraid to die — that he was at peace with the idea of dying young. He said his friends didn’t want him to go to Iraq; they were afraid he’d be injured. His mom was scared, too.

"It’s not what I would choose for him to do," his mother, Fran, said in 2005. "I am very proud that one of my [four] children would serve his country. But the danger . . . ."

When he was 18, and right after he committed to serving in the military, Dembowski gave a speech at a ceremony to honor the men from Newtown who served in World War II. He spoke about service, courage and commitment to an affected audience.

"He was absolutely amazing," said Bernadette Heenan, a Council Rock school board member who saw the speech. "He touched so many of those World War II veterans. They’re going to be going over to the house [to pay their respects]."

On his profile, Dembowski displayed the quote: "’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ – Edmund Burke."

Under the general heading on his profile, he said, "well, I used to enjoy shooting but the 82nd Airborne definitely ruined that for me, now I’m just interested in getting out of debt."

The tributes on his Myspace profile were already trickling in Friday.

"Bob I wish this was all just a dream, I want to wake up and for u to still be there," a woman wrote.

Bernadette of the school board said: "This has touched us all. This child — this man — is a true reflection of a Council Rock student who loved the United States and gave his life. We should all be very proud."

From the Courier Times