Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, died Jan. 5 from injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan.
Seidler and his team, charged with clearing a safe path for a 21-vehicle convoy near Musa Qala in Helmand, had neutralized two roadside bombs when a third exploded. Seidler and two others were killed. Seidler was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions. The award, along with a Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal were presented to his family at the memorial service held in Pikesville, MD.
More than 500 people – including dozens of members of the military and the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. – attended the funeral service. Among those attending the Pikesville service were State Sen. Joe Getty, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. The memorial service was led by Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, who spoke highly of Seidler:
“When it comes to Matt, we have much to mourn for, and much to honor and celebrate,” Rabbi Shapiro said. “We mourn his life just as he was starting to blossom and grow. But we are overwhelmed by the dignity and honor of a young man who gave everything for his country.”
Rabbi Shapiro recalled Seidler’s childhood growing up in Finksburg, being a Cub Scout, attending a Montessori school and playing in old refrigerator boxes with his older brother, Justin.
“He loved his bar mitzvah because for that one day, he was hot stuff, the center of attention,” the rabbi said. “He was extremely proud of being a Jewish man. … He observed and respected the Jewish tradition.”
“He joined EOD to protect his fellow soldiers from harm,” Shapiro said. “He joined an elite community of friends. He joined to protect his family and his nation.”
Following the service, Seidler was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Seidler’s death and the incredible outpouring at his funeral have made headlines across the world from local papers to the Jerusalem Post. You can read more here:
Those wishing to make contributions in memory of Matthew (Matt) Seidler may send checks payable to The Matthew Seidler Memorial Fund, c/o Susquehanna Bank, Attn: John Cole, 532 Baltimore Blvd., Suite 202, Westminster, MD 21157 or make a contribution online to one of the following organizations which the fund supports: EOD Memorial Foundation (www.eodmemorial.org), Fisher House Foundation (www.fisherhouse.org), or the USO (www.uso.org).
Matthew Seidler, an explosive ordnance disposal apprentice, was killed Jan. 5 by a bomb in Helmand province. He was 24.
According to his Bronze Star citation, Seidler and his team, charged with clearing a safe path for a 21-vehicle convoy near Musa Qala in Helmand, had neutralized two roadside bombs when a third exploded. Seidler and two others were killed.
He was buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Matt followed his dream," his father said. Defusing the improvised explosive devices that have been the signature weapon of the enemy in Afghanistan "was his calling."
Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro spoke of Seidler's determination.
"Even as a kid, Matt was serious, determined, focused on his goals and stubborn as a mule," said Shapiro, spiritual leader of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation in Baltimore. "It was these very aspects of his personality that helped him succeed."
Shapiro said Seidler's explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) class started with 28 members. Only three graduated.
"If it was not for his stubbornness and drive, he wouldn't have made it into the EOD community," he said.
The EOD community makes up 1 percent of the Air Force, Shapiro said, but accounts for 25 percent of the casualties.
"Matt knew this, and yet he still did it," he said. "That's who Matt Seidler was. He was strong-willed. He was full of conviction for his values and stood up for what he believed in. … He wanted to give as much as he possibly could to help his country."
In addition to the Bronze Star, Seidler has been awarded a Purple Heart, an Air Force Commendation Medal and an Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Marc Seidler said his son had been shaped by all the people in his life — "and now he's returning the favor."
"I know I'm a different person," he said. "Colors look different. Cold is not so bad. I walk slower and marvel at things I never even considered. We all must take pause about what is important. …
"I feel blessed to have had 24 years with him. I cannot mourn for what will not be. I'll cherish what was."