Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Robert Dembowski laid to rest

At a funeral Mass for Northampton native Army Pfc. Robert Dembowski Jr. Monday afternoon, the Rev. Dennis O’Donnell asked the hundreds of friends and family members there how they would describe the 20-year-old.

Someone called him brave; another said he was compassionate. They described him with words like loving, heroic, patriotic, happy and extraordinary.

“Goober,” said Robert Dembowski Sr. as the church erupted in laughter over the silly nickname the father had given his son when he was just a fun-loving, mischievous kid.

A couple hours later, Dembowski said goodbye to his son for the last time when the Iraq war veteran and Council Rock High School-North graduate was buried at Our Lady of Grace Cemetery in Middletown.

Robert Jr., a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, was killed May 24 by small-arms fire at a Baghdad checkpoint.

Many remembered the soldier as a hero Monday. Hundreds of people lined the 15-mile funeral procession route, waving American flags and saluting as the hearse carrying Dembowski’s casket passed by.

And many remembered him as a jovial young man who loved to make people laugh with goofy faces and funny impressions.

“He had a smile that grew from ear to ear,” Amy Beth Liebhold, one of his two sisters. “Bobby had the ability to make anyone laugh at any time.”

Liebhold said her brother had “unshakable love and devotion” for his friends and family. He also loved helping others and knew from the age of 8 that he wanted to join the military.

“God gave each of us a purpose and a meaning in life that we need to discover and bring out of ourselves,” said O’Donnell. “For some of us, that takes 40, 50, 60 years. For some, it takes 20. Bob Dembowski, in 20 short years, found meaning in life.”

Shortly before he died, the soldier spoke with his mother, Frances. He told her he felt he was really benefiting humanity in Iraq. He asked her to send more candy so he could give it to Iraqi children. She told him to be careful. He told her he would lay down his life to save the life of a fellow soldier.

As a bugler played “Taps” at the cemetery, Frances Dembowski stared at her young son’s coffin and cried. As she rested her head on her husband’s shoulder, the moment overtook him. He stepped toward the coffin and his knees buckled.

Then they said good-bye — far sooner than they should have had to do.

Army Maj. Gen. Jim Myles presented the Dembowskis with several medals their son had earned in Iraq, including a good conduct medal, an Army commendation medal, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

“He will be forever remembered for his actions,” Myles said.

From the Bucks County Courier Times

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Robert Dembowski remembered

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