Colby J. Umbrell
First Lieutenant, United States Army
No. 531-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
First Lieutenant Colby J. Umbrell, 26, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, died May 3, 2007, in Musayyib, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.
For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the U.S. Army, Alaska, public affairs office at (907) 384-1542.
Colby Umbrell, a 26-year-old Airborne Ranger stationed in Iraq, was killed Thursday by an improvised explosive device, his parents said.
The Umbrells said they have not yet received any additional details about their son’s death.
Colby, a 1999 Central Bucks High School East graduate, had enlisted in the Army in 2004 after he earned a political science degree from Johns Hopkins University. He spent a year in Alaska before he was deployed to Iraq.
He was last home on leave in early April.
And he had called his parents about a week
ago to share his excitement over a new assignment, but he couldn't tell
them the details. The Umbrells said they don't know if Colby was working
on his new assignment when he was killed.
Army Lieutenant. Colby Umbrell called his parents from Iraq about a week ago, excited over receiving a new assignment in a new area.
“I said, "That sounds a little dangerous,' ”his mother, Nancy Umbrell, recalled. “He said, "Well, you could look at it that way.' ”
But the 26-year-old Airborne Ranger considered it a new challenge and a new opportunity to lead.
Mark and Nancy Umbrell of Doylestown Township don't know yet if their son was on his new assignment when he was killed by an improvised explosive device Thursday. They don't know yet where he was or how it happened. They don't know yet if anyone else was killed or injured.
Colby Umbrell was the second local serviceman to be killed in Iraq this week.
Marine First Lieutenant Travis Manion was shot by a sniper Sunday. He was the same age as Colby, but the two young men had attended different middle and high schools.
The Umbrells don't know if Colby and Travis knew each other.
They do know that their son, like Travis, believed in what he was doing in Iraq.
“I know this war is a very controversial subject. He was very political, and he talked about things a lot. But before he went, he said he felt like he was involved in something very important,” Nancy Umbrell said. “He was enamored with the idea of democracy in the Middle East.”
And it helps the Umbrells to know their son was doing the right thing.
As the oldest in a family of four children, Colby was a natural born leader.
He always helped others, and he always defended the kid on the playground who got picked on, his mother said.
She remembered a time when Colby came home from school and told her that another boy had said such mean things that Colby had picked him up and put him in a trash can.
Colby's Lenape Middle School guidance counselor, Ann Kuntzmann, remembered him as a smart young man.
“Typical of boys that age, (he) didn't always live to his full potential. I say that with a smile after doing this for years. That's just the way adolescent boys are,” Kuntzmann said.
“His dream of being in the military is what pushed him to be successful.”
He fell more in love with the military when he went to West Point for a football camp during his junior year of high school, Mark Umbrell said.
He played defense on the football team at Central Bucks East High School and was a co-captain his senior year.
And he continued playing even after he blew out his knee during one of the first few games of the 1998 season, coach Larry Greene said.
Bryan Scott, a former teammate who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, remembered Colby's knee injury: “He was ready to go back on the field the next week. I said, "Whoa, Colby, you might need surgery, you can't do that.' He said, "If I can walk, I can play.' He taped that thing up and was back out there a couple weeks later.”
Greene said Colby and his father had visited a few specialists, learned there was no increased risk of danger and Colby would have limited mobility.
"Yet he had a tremendous season for us,” Greene said.
“He was a kid whose motor was always running 120 miles an hour and would do anything you asked.”
Later that school year, Colby threw shot put and ran the 100-yard dash for the track team.
“And he did it all on one leg because he just wanted to participate and do something,” former track and field coach Paul Wilson said.
Scott said Colby was outgoing and competitive.
“He had all the leadership qualities you could want,” he said. “It doesn't surprise me that he joined the military and was fighting for the country.”
After Colby graduated from Central Bucks East in 1999, he spent a year at a preparatory school, which his parents lovingly refer to as “grade 13.”
He went to Johns Hopkins University and received a degree in political science in 2004. He enlisted and was stationed in Alaska for a year before he was deployed. At 245 pounds, Colby decided he needed to lose weight to be a paratrooper, so he dropped nearly 50 pounds.
In Iraq, Colby made it his mission to help the children.
“He knew they really love school, but they were missing the simplest items,” his father said.
And he believed Iraqis would be more accepting of the coalition if the troops helped the children. So he led Kuntzmann and the National Junior Honor Society at Lenape Middle School to collect paper, pencils and pencil sharpeners to send to the kids in Iraq.
Colby came home on leave at the end of March and talked to the students at Lenape about Iraq. And they sent the first shipment of school supplies a few days after he returned to Iraq in April.
“I told him I'd continue the collection through the end of the year, so I have another box sitting at school,” Kuntzmann said.
“Now when I look at them, that's what I'm going to think of. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them yet.”
Colby was expected to come home again in October. He had planned to re-enlist, go to Temple University for law school and then join the JAG Corps, his mother said. He had thought about maybe getting into politics.
The family had frequently visited Washington, D.C., when Colby was growing up.
“He said that was a town full of movers and shakers,” his mother said. “He loved Washington.”
Choking back tears, his father added, “He loved
(Arlington National Cemetery), too.”
Casey Umbrell, 23, the sister of slain soldier Colby Umbrell, at the family's Bucks County home. Next to her is a door frame where the heights of the four children had been marked through the years.
Umbrell, 26, an airborne Ranger, a former high school and college football standout, and a Johns Hopkins University graduate, died Thursday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Musayyib, a town about 40 miles south of Baghdad.
As the Doylestown community prepared a vigil for Marine First Lieutenant Travis Manion, killed Sunday near Fallujah, organizers found they had two service members to memorialize - both driven, thoughtful, committed officers who grew up in Doylestown Township and this week became its first sons killed in the Iraq war.
"Two in one week. . . . It's pretty hard on the community to lose two young men like that," said Dan Fraley, director of Veterans Affairs for Bucks County.
Friends and family described Umbrell as a "natural-born leader" who looked out for poverty-stricken Iraqi civilians even while commanding his 36-member platoon.
Umbrell served in the First Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Two other soldiers in Umbrell's unit suffered minor injuries in the attack, according to the Army.
In a December interview for an Army press release, Umbrell described Musayyib as "a pretty stable town. One of the biggest problems here is the poor economic standards of the town."
Umbrell took it upon himself to collect school supplies for children near his base. In partnership with his former Lenape Middle School guidance counselor, Ann Kuntzmann, and the National Junior Honor Society, students collected boxes of paper and pencils. His father mailed them to Iraq last month.
"He wanted to help, he didn't just want to be there" in his military capacity, said his father, Mark Umbrell. "He said kids love to learn, but they don't have the basic tools to do it."
Umbrell had hoped to reenlist, go to law school, and join the military's Judge Advocate General Corps.
"Whatever it took for Colby to succeed in whatever he wanted to do, he got it done. . . . He was just fierce," said Bryan Scott, a safety for the Tennessee Titans who was a co-captain along with Umbrell of their Central Bucks High School East football squad.
As a football player at Central Bucks East and then at Hopkins, he was "relentless," said Jim Margraff, the college's head football coach. In his freshman year in 2000, Umbrell, a defensive lineman, was a key part of the Blue Jays' first Centennial Conference title.
"He was a good, honest guy you'd trust with anything," Margraff said. "He'd always work hard, always do the right thing - I could see why he did well in the military."
When word of a Doylestown soldier's death reached the middle school earlier in the week, one of Kuntzmann's 50 students in the National Junior Honor Society approached her, worried that it had been Umbrell.
She told him no, only to call him back Thursday to break the news. The meeting was short - she was crying.
Umbrell was the oldest of four children, three boys and a girl. He was protective of his younger sister, Casey, 23, and had an offbeat sense of humor that led him to dance to Muzak in an elevator.
In his last telephone call home, Umbrell and his father discussed the Eagles' draft. "He thought it was a good idea to draft a quarterback for the future," his father said.
A brother, Bruce, 22, is also in the Army, stationed in South Korea. Umbrell's youngest brother, Adam, 21, lives in Tampa, Florida.
The similarities between Umbrell and Manion are striking. Both 26-year-old first lieutenants were around 6 feet in height and weighed 200 pounds. Both were high school sports stars. Manion went to the Naval Academy, while Umbrell considered West Point but chose Hopkins. Parents of both men said they each saw the "big picture" and wanted to help bring democracy to Iraq.
So as the Manion family prepared to bury their son today, they found themselves also thinking about another family's son.
"He'll certainly be in our thoughts," said Jim Manion, Travis' uncle. The vigil for Manion was scheduled for last night.
In Doylestown Township, the loss of two soldiers in a week - the first casualties for the community of 18,000 people in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - was stunning.
"It is a loss that's felt by the entire community," said Barbara N. Lyons, chairwoman of the township's Board of Supervisors.
Funeral plans for Umbrell have not been finalized, but he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"I know he will be so proud to be there," said
his mother, Nancy Umbrell. "He would take it as an honor."
14 May 2007:
Family and friends gathered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to bid a final farewell to their loved one who was killed May 3, 2007, in a roadside bombing near Baghdad.
Funeral services for First Lieutenant Colby J. Umbrell, 26, of Doylestown, were held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Doylestown.
A fitting tribute for the man people described as "a great American."
"He was an amazing friend and American hero, and I'm just so proud," said friend Steven Kreider.
Umbrell was an infantryman who joined the Army in June 2004 and was assigned to Fort Richardson in September 2005.
He was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
The1999 graduate of Central Bucks East High School took the job a step further, partnering with his former middle school to give school supplies to children in Iraq.
"He loved what he was doing and the pictures of him handing out pencils to kids in Iraq, that is what we love and remember," said family friend Richard Krieder.
Umbrell was the second soldier from Doylestown killed this month.
Marine First Lieutenant Travis Manion's was killed that same week when his unit came under sniper fire in Fallujah. The Manion family was among those who came out to pay their respects to Umbrell.
Both men remembered for their passion and commitment to the job.
"He loved it over there and truly believed in what he was doing. He personally felt good about what he was doing," said Mark Reilly.
Umbrell, will be laid to rest on Friday at
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which his mother said "would be
an honor for him."
26 May 2007:
Without knowing if Colby Umbrell would be back in the U.S. to join them, his friends planned a trip to Las Vegas in April.
“I was confident that if he was anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, he'd make it,” said his friend Steven Kreider. “I'll never forget that phone call with him on the other end yelling, "I'm coming to Vegas, baby!'... We had a great time. What was so special was that he'd travel anywhere to see his friends.”
But while the group was having fun in Vegas, Kreider said, Umbrell's heart was in Iraq.
The Doylestown Township soldier was thinking of his fellow troops, Iraqi school children and bringing democracy to the Middle East.
Only a few weeks after he went back to Iraq, Umbrell was killed in Musayyib when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. It was May 3 — a month after he turned 26.
His family received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart during a private ceremony before his funeral.
More than 300 mourners remembered Umbrell Monday morning.
The Rev. Lynn Lampman, pastor of Salem United Church of Christ in Doylestown, remembered Umbrell as “a great lad who became a special man.”
She said he was committed to his fellow troops, his teammates, his family and friends; willing to sacrifice anything for his beliefs; concerned and compassionate; proud to be living what he thought was consistent with his values and purpose; and protective of those the loved.
He was also full of joy.
His friends and family elaborated on those qualities in the stories they told.
Umbrell was known to pelt the persecutors of his friends — or just the kids who got picked on — with snowballs or dump them in trash cans when he was a young boy, Lampman said.
He was also known for working hard for what he wanted.
He wanted to be one of the biggest guys on the Central Bucks High School East football team, so he worked out all through his sophomore year and summer.
Umbrell's friends were with him when he tore his ACL during the sixth game of his senior season.
“Since he had worked so hard to train for that season, he had enough strength in his legs to continue the season. Not for his personal glory, but because he was committed to the team,” Kreider said. “Even though he knew the injury would prevent him from meeting the physical requirements to get into the Military Academy at West Point.”
Umbrell was rejected by West Point, but he continued to work toward his dream of joining the service.
He attended Wyoming Seminary, which his friends and family lovingly called “the 13th grade,” and went to Johns Hopkins to study political science.
“As he finished, he was not tempted by his new earning potential, but looking to join the Army,” Kreider said.
But he had to work for it — this time to lose weight.
The former defensive lineman, who had weighed about 245 pounds, dropped about 50 pounds so he could become a paratrooper.
Umbrell's hard work and dedication made him a role model for his brothers, sister and cousin, his father said.
Umbrell will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery at 3 p.m. Friday.
In lieu of flowers, the Umbrell family requests that memorial contributions be made to the 1st Lt. Colby James Umbrell Memorial Fund, c/o First Trust Bank, 288 S. Main St., Doylestown, PA 18901.
18 May 2007:
More than 100 members of First Lieutenant Colby Umbrell’s family and friends traveled to Arlington National Cemetery today for his burial.
Umbrell was buried after a 20-minute service in which he was honored by the Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.
The 26-year-old Doylestown paratrooper was killed May 3,2007, in Musayyib, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Two other soldiers survived the blast, but suffered injuries.
The oldest of four children, Umbrell graduated from Central Bucks East in 1999 and spent a year at a preparatory school. He attended to Johns Hopkins University and received a degree in political science in 2004.
He enlisted and was stationed in Alaska for
a year before he was deployed. Later, he decided to become a paratrooper.
By CHRISTINA KRISTOFIC
Courtesy of the Bucks County Courier Times
19 May 2007
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 First Lieutenant 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, 2007 — 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 Major 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.
Soldier Died Pursuing One of Many Goals
Bucks County, Pa., Man Who Packed a 'Lifetime into 26 Years' Wanted to Help Iraqis
By Mark Berman
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Colby J. Umbrell never shied away from a challenge. He supported underdogs, stood up for those who were weaker than he and was focused on accomplishing his goals.
"He was a very goal-oriented guy, . . . and when he decided that he would want to do something, he always accomplished it," said his father, Mark Umbrell.
On May 3, 2007, First Lieutenant Umbrell, 26, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Musayyib, Iraq. He died after achieving his goal of becoming an officer.
Umbrell, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was buried yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery before a crowd of more than 100 mourners. He was the 336th member of the military killed in Iraq or Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington.
On a chilly, cloudy afternoon, a horse-drawn caisson carried Umbrell's coffin to the gravesite. Family members, dabbing at their eyes, stood among the mourners as a seven-member firing party shot three volleys into the sky.
Umbrell was the second son of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to be killed in Iraq recently; he died four days after First Lieuenant Travis Manion, from neighboring New Britain, was killed by a sniper. Umbrell was assigned to 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
In addition to his father, Umbrell is survived by his mother, Nancy; his sister, Casey, 23; and two brothers, Adam, 21, and Bruce, 22.
"He told his mother one time, 'I want to do more over here than just be a soldier,' " Mark Umbrell said. "That's just the way he was. If he wasn't going to do something 120 percent, he wasn't going to do it."
Umbrell was the kind of guy who would tell his parents, " 'What these people really need are school supplies,' " his father recalled. " 'They have schools, but they don't have paper; they don't have pens.' "
He did more than talk about the problems. After arriving home for a 15-day leave in March, he visited his middle school and helped organize a donation for school supplies for Iraqi children.
Umbrell was a defensive lineman for the Central Bucks High School East football team, until he blew out his knee six games into his senior season. He came back from the injury to play in the last two games of the season, just to help his teammates.
Football helped spur his interest in the Army, after a trip to West Point for a football camp during his junior year, and his desire to join the Army was cemented after the attacks of September 11, 2001, his father said.
After graduating in 1999, Umbrell attended a year of preparatory school at Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania to give his knee time to heal. He played football at Johns Hopkins University and graduated in 2004 with a degree in political science.
He ran marathons in Chicago, Rome and Alaska, where he also participated in a triathlon.
"He had a lot of fun," Mark Umbrell said. "He packed a whole lifetime into 26 years."
Umbrell, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, never questioned the war, his father said. He told friends that withdrawing from Iraq would cause more harm than good, and he planned to reenlist. His future goals included law school and the JAG program, with an eye on politics one day.
"He thought it was important, and he was willing to give up his life for it," Umbrell said of his son's desire to help the Iraqi people. "He succeeded; he just had to give up his life to do it."
UMBRELL, COLBY J
Posted: 5 May 2007 Updated: 14 May 2007 Updated: 15 May 2007 Updated: 18 May 2007 Updated: 20 May 2007 Updated: 2 July 2007 Updated: 16 July 2007 Updated: 26 May 2009
Updated: 12 December 2009 Updated: 17 April 2010
Photo Courtesy of Eileen Horan, April 2010
Photo Courtesy of Holly, July 2007
Photo Courtesy of Holly, May 2007