Mourners of Airman 1st Class Matthew Ryan Seidler said the Westminster man had followed his dream of serving his country, found a band of brothers in the Air Force and died protecting his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.
"When we talked to him New Year's Day, it was the happiest that he had ever been in his life," his father, Marc Seidler, told the more than 500 mourners who filled the Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home Tuesday in Pikesville. "He loved the Air Force."
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."