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Jewish Airman Dies in Afghanistan

Jewish Airman Dies in Afghanistan

Image: U.S. Air Force

On his Facebook page, Matthew Seidler, Airman 1st Class, posted the lyrics to one of his favorite tunes, “Opportunity” by Australian singer Pete Murray.

“Your coffee’s warm but your milk is sour / Life is short but you’re here to flower,” the lyrics state. “Dream yourself along another day / Never miss opportunity.”

Those were words Matt Seidler lived by, his father, Marc Seidler, said in a tearful January 17 eulogy for his son, the Baltimore Jewish Times reported. The suburban Baltimore Air Force member was killed in Afghanistan on January 5.

“He loved the Air Force. It was his calling. There was no second choice,” Marc Seidler said.

“I wonder where he got his bravery from. He never questioned his commitment to his country,” the grieving father said. “We can all learn from Matt. Our freedom is something we should never take for granted.”

Seidler is one of 40 Jews to die in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the first in 2012. Two Jews were killed in 2011.

A memorial for the popular service member was set to take place Friday, January 20, at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

The loss hit his colleagues hard, especially since Seidler’s unit is quite small, with fewer than 1,000 members.

READ THE FORWARD STORY ABOUT AMERICAN SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN AND WATCH A VIDEO ABOUT THEM

“He was almost the perfect airman,” said Jason Warden, a technical sergeant “He was really polite, and he was really big on customs and courtesies.”

Seidler would often organize group hikes and activities, and his friends did a strenuous hike in his honor after hearing of the tragedy.

“He really enjoyed being here in Colorado, especially the outdoor life,” said Mathew Kimberling, a staff sergeant.

More than 500 people — including dozens of members of the military and the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America — attended Seidler’s funeral service.

An explosive ordnance disposal technician, Seidler died of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive attack in Shir Ghazi, in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron.

Standing at attention and holding American flags upright in the cold, drizzling rain, about 40 leather-clad members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle club lined the front of the funeral home to pay their respects to Seidler and his family.

“We’re here to be there for the soldier’s family,” one PGR member said. “It’s the least we can do. Right now, they have to have their time.” At the funeral, members of the military in the audience stood up as a high-ranking Air Force officer presented the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal to Seidler posthumously.

On the podium near the flag-draped casket, Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro led the mourners in the 23rd Psalm. He noted that Seidler, known for his modesty and humility, “would probably be embarrassed by all of this.”

“When it comes to Matt, we have much to mourn for, and much to honor and celebrate,” 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.”

Shapiro recalled Seidler’s childhood in Finksburg, Md.: 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.”

The Air Force transformed Seidler. “He became a man,” Shapiro said. “He grew in confidence and comfort in himself, and developed a camaraderie of friends that he enjoyed.”

When he last spoke to his son, Marc Seidler said, he’d never seen the young man so happy.

“He told us he loved us, and that’s not easy for a 24-year-old to say to his mother and father,” Marc Seidler said. “We were blessed to have him for 24 years. He was a good guy, with not a mean bone in his body.”

For more, go to The Baltimore Jewish Times

Written by

Alan H. Feiler

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