Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chris Neiberger laid to rest

A Gainesville High School graduate killed in Iraq was remembered Sunday for his commitment to helping people from the streets of Gainesville to an orphanage in Mexico.

Hundreds packed Trinity United Methodist Church for a memorial service honoring Christopher Todd Neiberger. The U.S. Army infantryman was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 6, just three days after his 22nd birthday.

Robert Neiberger remembered his older brother as the kind of person who stopped to talk with a homeless man in downtown Gainesville for a half-hour before giving money to him.

"He thought that indifference is everything that is wrong with humanity," he said.

Christopher Neiberger was an Eagle Scout and 2003 graduate of Gainesville High. He had been serving a 15-month deployment in Iraq since September. He will be buried Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Robert Neiberger said his brother felt a duty to go to Iraq, listing the country and Germany on his military contract as places he wanted to serve. He said his brother went on to earn nine ribbons and medals, including a posthumously awarded Purple Heart.

Friends and family remembered Neiberger's quick wit, passion for writing and service in foreign lands. Scout leader Paul Davenport said Neiberger embodied the word "volunteer," participating in missions to Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

"He had the courage to stand for what he thought was right," Davenport said. "He put feet to his faith."

The Rev. Dan Johnson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist, told a story of Neiberger pushing his then-long hair into a cap so as to not offend girls in the Mexican orphanage. He said Neiberger's kindness started early in his life, and he told a story about Neiberger giving a balloon to a kindergarten classmate who burst hers.

"There was a kindness about Chris that was remarkable," he said.

Alachua County Manager Randall Reid read a proclamation dedicating the day to Neiberger. U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, who represents part of Gainesville and the county, recalled the words of Abraham Lincoln to a woman who had lost her children in the Civil War.

"Chris gave the ultimate sacrifice upon the alter of freedom," Stearns said, adding: "It is not the press who protect our rights of free speech. It is people like Chris."

Robert Neiberger said his brother's favorite book was "All Quiet on the Western Front," recalling the insights into the book that his brother gave him. He said his brother was a writer who was working on a screenplay set in Iraq.

"He had a million things running through his mind at any given time," he said.

His father, Richard, a pediatric nephrologist at Shands at the University of Florida, spoke briefly to thank the community for an outpouring of support.

Johnson said the Neiberger family has shown him the love they continue to feel for Chris.

"I've learned from you that while life is fragile, love is forever," he said.

From the Gainesville Sun

Related Link:
Christopher T. Neiberger dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'