Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Another American Hero from Maryland
At funeral for Md. soldier: man he saved Blasts occurred Christmas Eve ByJENNIFER BROOKS News Journal Washington Bureau 01/21/2006 ARLINGTON, Va. -- Beside a flag-draped coffin in Arlington National Cemetery, a pale young man in a wheelchair embraced the parents of the man who died while saving him from a roadside bomb in Iraq.It was a hero's funeral for Maryland National Guard Sgt. Michael McMullen, a 25-year-old firefighter from Salisbury, who died Jan. 10 of wounds he suffered while rescuing fellow guardsman Sgt. Randal Divel, of Middletown, Md. Still recovering from second- and third-degree burns, Divel left a rehabilitation center in San Antonio to attend the funeral. McMullen received the Silver Star for gallantry under fire and a posthumous promotion to staff sergeant. His body was carried to Arlington in a firetruck in a long, solemn procession that wound through the back roads of Maryland. Along the way, family spokesman Steven Dickerson said, firehouses tolled their bells 25 times for the 25 years of McMullen's life. People lined the road to wave American flags and salute the fallen soldier.The funeral procession -- half a dozen fire engines, police and rescue vehicles and hundreds of friends and supporters in vans and chartered buses -- left Salisbury at 9 a.m., reaching Arlington a little before 1 p.m."He was a son, a brother, a comrade-in-arms and a true American hero," said Maryland National Guard Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, who presented the folded flag from McMullen's coffin to his parents. Robin and David McMullen gently stroked the fabric as a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace." With them at the graveside were McMullen's sister, Jeanette; brother, Brian; and his fiancee, Kim Mundorf, whom he'd planned to marry when he returned from active duty.For his family, the greatest proof of McMullen's heroism may have been the man in the wheelchair.It was Christmas Eve outside Ramadi when McMullen and members of the 243rd Engineer Company hit a roadside bomb. McMullen, a trained paramedic, pulled a wounded soldier from a burning vehicle, extinguished the flames and then protected the injured man with his own body when a second explosive device detonated. McMullen died of his injuries weeks later. At the graveside, Divel pushed himself closer to the coffin and stared at it silently. Then he turned to McMullen's parents, who rushed up to hug him, smiling through their tears.A Marine honor guard fired a seven-gun salute over his grave as taps was played and the sound drifted over the rows of marble headstones.McMullen's grave lies in one of the newest areas of the cemetery, surrounded by other casualties of the Iraq war on a rolling green slope that faces the Potomac River and the Pentagon, with the spire of the Washington Monument just visible through the trees. "Let not your hearts be troubled," the chaplain told the mourners. "Pray that the Lord gives us faith to look to the future with hope and confidence."