More than 500 friends, family and neighbors braved gray skies and a steady drizzle on Tuesday to pay final respects to Airman 1st Class Matthew Ryan Seidler, a Westminster man killed in Afghanistan on Jan. 5.
Seidler's flag-draped coffin waited in front of a stark brown-gray wall under a lighted menorah as mourners took their seats at the funeral home of Sol Levinson & Bros., in Pikesville.
"Just as he was blossoming and growing, he was taken away from us," said Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro.
Seidler, 24, a 2006 graduate of Westminster High School, was killed Jan. 5 from injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device attack during a combat operation in volatile enemy territory in Shir ghazi, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.
He had been assigned to the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. He was one of three service members who died in the attack.
Seidler, a member of an elite Air Force Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) squadron, was killed while clearing a path for fellow soldiers when his vehicle was struck by an improved explosive devise, just after he and his team had located and neutralized two other devises.
Also killed were Senior Airman Bryan Bell, 23, of Erie, Pa., who had been assigned to the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Schwartz, 34, of Traverse City, Mich., from the 90th Civil Engineer Squadron, FE Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
On Tuesday, Shapiro led the service with the Song of David before introducing an Air Force officer who awarded the Bronze Star for heroism, a Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal to Seidler's family.
Before the Yekara DeShichva — a portion of the service dedicated to sharing respect, honor and endearment — Shapiro noted that the purpose of this time is to honor the life of Seidler and that "he would probably be embarrassed" if he were here.
"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.
"When I watch my kids playing, I'm going to see Matt's face," he added, "because the only reason they can play is because of people like Matt.
"If he were here today he would say 'Don't be sad, I did this for you,'" said Shapiro.
Seidler's aunt and his father, Marc, spoke at the services. Marc Seidler said his son, "followed his dream (to join the Air Force.) There was no second choice. … He was a part of a true band of brothers… I've wondered, 'Where did he get his special brand of bravery?'
"He was very happy. … The last thing he told us is that he loved us."
Shapiro shared in his hesped (eulogy) that, "We are here to morn but also celebrate Matthew Seidler… There is much to morn but also much more celebrate."
Shapiro told those gathered that Seidler was a talented artist, but very modest and never wanted to be the center of attention. He was a "serious, determined, stubborn," and a very complex person, Shapiro said.
One percent of the entire Air Force belongs to the elite EOD teams, yet it constitute 25 percent of all Air Force casualties, said Shapiro. When Seidler began training for the EOD unit, 28 airmen started the training, but only three finished. Seidler was among them.
Interment for Seidler was scheduled for later Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Before the services began, Getty said, "We have a strong tradition in Carroll County of service in the military. We're very patriotic. It's always hard on all of us when we lose a service member."
"This is always a sad moment, humbling when you realize the sacrifice these soldiers make," Cardin said. "We come together as a community at times like this. We thank (Seidler) and his family for his service — and his sacrifice to make us safer.
"It's wonderful to see the community come together to be here at such a sad time," Cardin said. "(Seidler) not only helped defend our nation, (but) he sacrificed his own life to save others — his fellow soldiers. He was quite a remarkable person."
Matthew Seidler was the son of Marc and Lauren Seidler; brother of Justin Seidler; and grandson of Pearl and Aaron Seidler, and Leda and the late David Hoff. He is also survived by other family members, friends, and extended family in the U.S. Air Force and EOD Unit.
Those wishing to make contributions in memory of 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 to the EOD Memorial Foundation (www.eodmemorial.org,) Fisher House Foundation (www.fisherhouse.org,) or the USO (www.uso.org.