Robert Thomas Mininger
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
Jun3 08, 2005
Media Contact: Marine Corps Public Affairs - (703) 614-4309 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lance Corporal Robert T. Mininger, 21, of Sellersville, Pennsylvania, died June 6, 2005, from wounds received as a result of an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Fallujah, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Media with questions about this Marine can
call the Camp Lejeune Public Affairs Office at (910) 451-9033.
A Sellersville Marine who was killed in Iraq on Monday will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month, his family said Wednesday.
Lance Corporal Bob Mininger, 21, was on patrol outside Fallujah when an explosive device went off near his Humvee. His family said he died from chest wounds as a result of the blast.
The family was still planning local services when his mother, Paula Zwillinger, said they decided to pursue burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The family learned Wednesday that their request was approved and the ceremony was planned for June 20, she said.
A local memorial is now being planned for early next week, and another service will likely be held in New York, where Zwillinger lives, later in the week, she said.
Plans were tentative because Mininger's body was still in Iraq as of Wednesday evening, the family said.
The Department of Defense confirmed Mininger's death, saying he died from "wounds received as a result of an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces." The government would not release further details, but the family, including Zwillinger, his father, Thomas Mininger, and younger brother Gregory, were told he was on patrol and searching for a weapons cache when the explosion happened.
Mininger was a 2002 graduate of Pennridge High School, where he played defensive end on the varsity football team. He was remembered by friends and family as a "great guy" who loved working out, driving his 1999 Camaro and eating cheesesteaks.
He and longtime girlfriend Erica Lehneis were even planning a trip to Philadelphia to rate different cheesesteaks when he returned home. He was tentatively set to finish his tour of duty in August.
Mininger joined the Marines last year because he knew the military service would further his ultimate goal of working for the FBI or the CIA. He reported for boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., a year ago this week and was deployed to Iraq in January.
"He was so proud to be a Marine," Thomas Mininger
The family and friends of Marine Lance Corporal Robert Mininger will gather Monday and Tuesday to remember him and celebrate his life.
Mininger, 21, a Hilltown Township resident and 2002 Pennridge High graduate, was killed Monday in Iraq.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Mininger died after ''an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces'' in Fallujah. Tom Mininger said military officials told him his son was hit in the chest by shrapnel.
A gathering of family and friends will be held 6-9 p.m. Monday at Huff & Lakjer Funeral Home, Derstine and Cannon avenues, Lansdale.
A calling will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Zwingli United Church of Christ, Wile Avenue and Walnut Street, Souderton, followed by a memorial service.
''He was an excellent young man and will be missed by a lot of people,'' said Jeff Hollenbach, Mininger's football coach at Pennridge.
There also will be a memorial service in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Thursday near the Lagrangeville home of Mininger's mother, Paula Zwillinger.
She is the founder of Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley, a support group for the family members of Marines.
Mininger will be buried at 11 a.m. June 20 in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.
He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
According to 2nd Lt. Barry Edwards of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, the division has two missions in Iraq: security operations and training Iraqi security forces. It arrived in Iraq in January and is due to return home in September.
Mininger was described by his family and friends as a motivated and disciplined young man who also had a playful side.
''He is the kind of kid every coach wants to coach,'' Hollenbach said. ''He's what high school sports is all about … he worked hard day in and day out and did whatever we asked him to do to help the team.''
Mininger attended Montgomery County Community College before he enlisted, majoring in criminal justice with an eye toward joining the FBI.
During Pennridge High's graduation ceremony
Monday night, there will be a moment of silence in honor of Mininger. Principal
Thomas Creeden said a plaque will be placed later at the new high school.
PERKASIE, Pennsylvania - A Bucks County community is mourning one of their own who was killed in Iraq.
Lance Corporal Robert Mininger, 21, died when an improvised bomb hit his Hummer.
Mininger was a star football player at Penn Ridge High School. He graduated in 2002. His parents said that he was an all-American kid who died doing what he loved.
"It's very hard, from a mother's perspective, to really see him sign for the Marines. I didn't want him to go," said Paula Zwillinger, Mininger's mother.
Zwillinger said that her son wanted military experience and, for him, the Marines were the only way to go.
However, on Sunday Mininger's military career and life ended while he was on patrol in Fallujah.
"He knew what was on the plate. But he felt assured, he tried to reassure us that, 'I'm safe. I'm well trained, and don't worry. Right around the corner and I'll be home,'" Zwillinger said.
His parents were planning on an August homecoming and they believed he was about to get engaged.
"I feel cheated," Zwillinger said tearfully.
Mininger's parents are waiting for word from
the military on when their son's body will be returned to them, so they
can make funeral plans. They are hoping that he will be buried in Arlington
A Bucks County Marine who was killed in Iraq was buried today in Arlington National Cemetery.
21-year-old Lance Corporal Robert Mininger of Hilltown Township was a 2002 Pennridge High School graduate.
More than 100 people turned out for the graveside service.
"I think he would be surprised at all the lives he's touched," Paula Zwillinger said afterward of her son. "I don't think he knew."
Mininger was killed June 6, 2005, outside Fallujah when a bomb went off near his Humvee.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Mininger died after "an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces" in Fallujah. Tom Mininger said military officials told him his son was hit in the chest by shrapnel.
He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine
Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary
Force at Camp Lejeune, North Carlolina.
His family and friends came to bid him farewell. His comrades-in-arms will see him through eternity.
Marine Lance Corporal Robert Thomas Mininger was laid to rest with honors Monday at Arlington National Cemetery during a solemn graveside ceremony attended by more than 100 people.
The half-hour service took place in an area reserved for those killed in Iraq. Mininger, 21, of Hilltown Township, Bucks County, was the 145th person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
The 2002 Pennridge High School graduate was a determined young man who joined the Marines while taking criminal justice classes at Montgomery County Community College as part of a long-range plan to work for the FBI. He arrived in Iraq in January and was due to come home later this summer. But he was mortally wounded on June 6, 2005, by shrapnel from a roadside bomb while on combat operations in Fallujah.
His mother, Paula Zwillinger of Lagrangeville, New York, said the family had been planning a homecoming. In his last call to her from Iraq, Mininger said, ''I'll have some down time. See you in August.''
She teased him during the call about needing her help to order flowers for his girlfriend, Erica Lehneis, 21, a woman Zwillinger expected would soon become her daughter-in-law. If he could call his mother from there, why not a florist?
But of course, she agreed to do it, as he knew she would. ''Mom,'' he told her, ''you're the best.''
''Those were the last words, said Zwillinger. ''I'll hang on to those.''
In the last week and a half, there have been many words and stories shared about Mininger's short life. Hundreds turned out for memorial services in Souderton and Poughkeepsie, New York, near Zwillinger's home, even before the family brought Mininger to Arlington.
The cemetery, along the Potomac River across from the Lincoln Memorial, was created during the Civil War from land seized from the wife of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces and veterans retired from active duty are eligible for burial at Arlington, as are some categories of veteran reservists. Its rolling hills have become the final resting place for many of the nation's military heroes as well as astronauts, Supreme Court justices and two U.S. presidents: William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy.
''We were just looking for the highest honor we could give him,'' Zwillinger said.
Mourners from as far away as Arizona attended the service, their cars blocking both directions of the tree-lined lane as they filed in behind the hearse. Those who knew Mininger said he would have been stunned by the turnout.
''I think he'd be surprised at all the lives he's touched,'' said Zwillinger. ''Friends always looked up to him. I don't think he knew.''
Under a chalky white sky, six Marine pallbearers took slow, precise steps as they carried Mininger's silver flag-draped casket from the hearse to the grave site. There, they lifted the casket and held it at eye level in a gesture of respect before lowering it gently to a metal stand.
Chaplain Robert Rearick, the ceremony's only speaker, offered prayers and reflected on Arlington's storied place in history. He told the gathering it was fitting that Mininger now had a place among his fellow heroes.
In their time-honored way, the pallbearers in their dress blue uniforms folded the U.S. flag over Mininger's casket. Gunnery Sgt. Barry Baker dropped to one knee as he presented the flag to Mininger's father, Tom, seated in the front row.
Lehneis sat next to him, along with Mininger's brother, Greg, 19, his mother, Paula, and her husband, Larry Zwillinger. Baker saluted, then shook hands with each of them.
The official ceremony concluded with three volleys from a Marine firing party and a Marine bugler playing taps.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETARY:
Lance Cpl. Robert Mininger was laid to rest in a military ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, two weeks after he was killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq.
Mininger, 21, is the 145th person who was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at the cemetery in Virginia. More than 1,700 servicemen and women have died since the conflict began in 2003.
The Sellersville Marine died while on patrol outside Fallujah. His unit was searching for weapons when a bomb exploded near his Humvee. Mininger was hit in the chest with shrapnel.
The ceremony began as members of a Marine honor guard lined up at the side of the road within Arlington, waiting to meet the hearse carrying Mininger's body. The team of six pallbearers marched the few steps to the car in a slow and steady motion. In a carefully choreographed and executed move, the men leaned toward the hearse, reached for the silver casket, covered with an American flag, and turned toward the burial site.
They turned their torsos toward the coffin as they carried it, with feet and heads facing front.
About 75 family members walked slowly behind the pallbearers as they crossed the short distance to the grave. Mininger's father, Thomas, held the hand of his son's longtime girlfriend, Erica Lehneis, as they took their place among the handful of seats set up next to the grave.
The Marines carefully lowered the casket into place and picked up the flag on top. The men held the flag taut above the coffin while chaplain Robert Rearick, a Protestant official with Arlington National Cemetery, led the brief service.
"We lay Lance Corporal Robert Mininger to rest here in recognition of his sacrifice," Rearick said. "He joins the men and women who served their country and gave their life."
A group of seven Marines standing about 50 yards away fired off three volleys of gunshots in tribute to their fallen brother, while a bugler played taps.
With precise movements, the Marines standing at the coffin folded the American flag into the familiar triangular shape, and Gunnery Sergeant Barry Baker knelt and presented it to Mininger's father.
"We felt this was the best way to honor him," Mininger said of the Arlington service. "He was so proud to be a Marine."
Additional flags were presented to Mininger's mother, Paula Zwillinger, his younger brother, Greg, and Lehneis.
Family members laid roses on the silver casket at the close of Monday's service, in a final farewell to the young Marine.
Mininger joined the Marines to further his ultimate career goal - joining the FBI, CIA or Secret Service. He entered boot camp last June and was deployed in January. He was tentatively set to return home in August, his family said.
Mininger, a former Pennridge High School football player, was honored with a service in Souderton last Tuesday, and another in New York, where his mother now lives, last Thursday.
Marine pallbearers carry the casket of Lance Corporal Robert Thomas Mininger past mourners for his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery,
Monday, June 20, 2005. He was from Hilltown Township,Bucks County,Pennsylvania, and was killed June 6, 2005 while on duty in Iraq.
MININGER, ROBERT THOMAS
Posted: 11 June 2005 Updated: 20 June 2005 Updated: 21 June 2005 Updated: 22 June 2005 Updated: 1 September 2005 Updated: 19 October 2007
Photo By: M. R. Patterson, October 2007