washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Special Reports > Home Front

Family, Friends Mourn a Soldier and a Poet

Md. Man Died During 1st Month Of Duty in Iraq

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 20, 2004; Page B03

The last day Christina DiPasquale saw her best friend, he gave her Gabriel Garcia Marquez's autobiography, "Living to Tell the Tale." Since it was the first of a trilogy, he told her, he would have to come back from Iraq to give her the rest of the story.

Army Spec. Thomas Doerflinger died on Veterans Day, when his unit was attacked by small-arms fire in Mosul. He had been in Iraq for less than a month.

Thomas Doerflinger's parents, Richard and Lee Ann, leave the church. Behind them are their daughters, Maria (in ponytail) and Anna. (Photos Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

_____Religion News_____
Pope Returns Relics To Orthodox Leader (The Washington Post, Nov 28, 2004)
A Milestone to Eternity (The Washington Post, Nov 27, 2004)
Making a Place for All At Thanksgiving Table (The Washington Post, Nov 25, 2004)
Bound by Belief and Womanhood (The Washington Post, Nov 22, 2004)
Ascending a Pulpit of Greater Prominence (The Washington Post, Nov 20, 2004)
More Religion Stories

More than 600 people filled the pews yesterday at St. John the Baptist Church in Silver Spring, where priests who had known Doerflinger since he was born and other mourners remembered the quiet, religious, poetry-writing young man whose decision to join the Army had shocked so many of them.

He was 20, a writer, a reader, a thinker -- and a typical late-sleeping, movie-watching, video-game-playing kid, they said.

He liked playing poker; his friends laughed at him for once losing $15 in 15 minutes. He used to go sledding and hang out at a Chinese restaurant with friends having crazy conversations.

Sometimes he didn't turn in high school papers on time. Sometimes he fell asleep in Spanish class. Thomas Tobin, an English teacher at Springbrook High School, said he would think Doerflinger wasn't paying attention, then call on him -- "and get this lightning bolt of insight. . . . All of a sudden you'd just get something out of him that would just make everybody's jaw's drop."

Tobin said he was closer to Doerflinger than any other student in his teaching career.

Doerflinger would sit in class, not joining in the discussion, but with a characteristic half-smile on his face. History teacher Maura Ryan said she knew much was happening in his mind.

He came from a family that examines life.

His father, Richard Doerflinger, is a well-known scholar and advocate for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and has spoken to Congress and the media about issues such as euthanasia, abortion, stem cell research and assisted suicide. His mother, Lee Ann Doerflinger, taught natural family planning for the Archdiocese of Washington.

His father's beliefs were shaped by a car crash that left an older brother in a coma, which doctors said he would not survive, according to interviews Richard Doerflinger has given in the past. A few months later, the brother, Eugene, woke up.

It left Doerflinger with a conviction that one should not give up on life too easily.

Thomas Doerflinger used to take uncle Eugene to Mass, pushing his wheelchair. And he volunteered with the Catholic student group at his high school, visiting a nursing home, wheeling the elderly people to church, then visiting with them afterward, Tobin said.

Doerflinger graduated from Springbrook, in Silver Spring, with an International Baccalaureate diploma in 2002 and enlisted in the Army soon afterward.

CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company