by Richard D. L. Fulton
“Step forward now you soldier, you’ve borne your burdens well,
1st Lieutenant Robert Seidel, III
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets, you’ve done your time in Hell.”
“A Soldier Reports to God,” Author Unknown
(west-point.org, Tribute to 1st Lt. Robert Seidel, III)
1st Lieutenant Robert Seidel, III, was born in 1982 in Frederick, the son of Bob and Sandy Seidel, and was raised in Emmitsburg until his family subsequently moved to Gettysburg in 2003. His grandfather served as mayor of Emmitsburg from 1968 to 1970.
According to Seidel’s mother, Sandy Giannini Seidel, her son enjoyed Civil War history, frequently visited the Gettysburg battlefield, was a country music fan, and also enjoyed athletics.
Seidel graduated from Catoctin High School in 2000, where he played football and baseball and excelled academically, his mother stated. After graduating from Catoctin, he attended the United States Military Academy West Point, where he also participated in wrestling on the intramural team.
According to west-point.org, Seidel majored at West Point in the American Legal System, along with environmental engineering, “(and) was an Army Ranger, earned his Air Assault and Airborne badges, and had been planning a career in the Army.”
Upon graduating from West Point in 2004, 1st Lieutenant Robert Seidel was assigned to United States Army 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (light infantry), and served as the rifle platoon leader in Company B during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
Frederickcountygives.org noted that, as a platoon leader, “Seidel felt a tremendous responsibility for the safety and well-being of his men, putting their concerns above himself.”
But, at 2:20 p.m. on May 18, 2006, his service in Iraq came to an unanticipated and devastating end, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near the HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as a Humvee) in which he was riding in with several other soldiers in the Baghdad area. Seidel died from injuries sustained in the blast. Also killed in the blast were Lieutenant Colonel Daniel E. Holland, Sergeant Lonnie C. Allen Jr., and Private First-Class Nicholas R. Cournoyer.
Seidel’s mother said the family was informed of the death of her 23-year-old son at her Gettysburg home by someone she identified as a lieutenant colonel. The family was informed on the same day as his death.
A Mass of Christian Burial for Seidel was celebrated on May 29, 2006, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and was presided by Bishop Francis Malooly, with Rev. James Kiernan serving as celebrant, and was assisted by Father Vincent O’Malley and Father Stephen Trzecieski. 1st Lieutenant Robert Seidel, III, was subsequently interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Emmitsburg. Hundreds of individuals attended the services, including members of the family, military, county and local officials and citizenry, and the Patriot Guard.
Seidel earned many awards and decorations, including the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal, War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, Ranger Tab, and the Parachutist Badge.
On October 29, 2016, the bridge on Route 140 in Emmitsburg, spanning U.S. 15, was dedicated to the memory of 1st Lt. Seidel III, an action made possible through the Maryland Hero’s Highway Act. Kirby Delauter, then a Frederick County councilman, led the dedication ceremony. Each side of the bridge bears a sign noting Seidel’s name and rank.
To honor 1st Lt. Seidel III’s memory and his commitment to his troops, his parents established the 1LT Robert A. Seidel III Memorial Scholarship Fund with the Community Foundation of Frederick County to award scholarships to graduating seniors from Catoctin High School who exhibit academic promise, have participated in at least one varsity sport during their senior year, demonstrate an outstanding record of community service, and are active in their faith.
His parents also established the 1LT Rob Seidel Wounded Soldiers Fund to award grants to nonprofit organizations who support wounded soldiers with medical treatment, housing assistance, psychological counseling, physical and occupational therapies, companionship, mentoring, and employment training.