About Colby Umbrell 1LT Colby James Umbrell, US Army, KIA Iraq 2001

The golden boy was in trouble.
His sixth-grade teacher was on the phone. "Mrs. Umbrell, I had to call and tell you that Colby got in trouble on the playground today and will have to stay after school this week. The school policy is children are not allowed to throw snowballs while outside at recess."
It was certainly a reasonable rule. I was just a little surprised he had done it, and I wasn't particularly happy with him.
Then his teacher added, "I hope you and Colby's dad won't be too hard on him. There was a group of children who were teasing other kids at recess. Colby tried to get them to stop. When they wouldn't listen, he threw the snowball at the bully of the group."
So goes the story of Colby Umbrell. He always stood up for others, especially those in need. It defined his short life.
Colby was born in Doylestown and spent the better part of his life active in his school and community. He helped to build Kids’ Castle in Doylestown's Central Park. He was a Special Olympics coach. He both loved and admired those athletes for their hard work. Sports came easy to him, but he helped them overcome their obstacles.
Colby was not from a military family, but we were patriotic. We took family vacations to Washington, D.C., often. As he grew up, his respect for the military grew, and by high school, he had decided to go into the Army specifically. His grandfather had served in the Navy, but his grandmother, whom he had fond memories of, served in the Army. He admired that she had served at a time when not many women did. A medical issue kept him out of West Point, so he plotted his course by attending Johns Hopkins University and after graduating, heading off to boot camp, officer and Army Ranger training at Fort Benning, Ga. With training completed, he was assigned to Fort Richardson in Alaska. All the while, when the opportunities arose, he tutored underprivileged school children on weekends and playing Santa Claus to children whose parents were deployed.
It wasn't long before he deployed to Iraq with the 50lst Parachute Infantry Regiment at a forward operating base located outside the city of Musayyib. Most of the time, we corresponded through e-mail. During his patrols and his close work with Civil Affairs in the local town, he described a rundown school for Iraqi children that lacked even basic supplies for its students. “While I am here,” he wrote, “I am going to make a difference."
With that, Colby began to work with the Army’s civil affairs command to write proposals for repairs to the infrastructure of the school building. He contacted his alma mater, Lenape Middle School in Doylestown, and arranged to meet with students there during his upcoming leave. They took it up the charge of collecting school supplies and our garage was soon full and we would ship to Colby's platoon in Iraq. It was easy to see how excited he was.
One month later, two gentlemen in uniform knocked on our door and delivered the news that every warrior’s parent dreads. While Colby was on patrol, his Humvee had hit an IED—an improvised explosive device. He was 26, and he was gone.

As we reflect on his life and his message, we couldn't be more proud of our Colby. There is a school full of Iraqi children who know an American soldier cared about them.