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Marine Was Steadfast in Service, a Pillar on Stage

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 1, 2006

There was the warrior side of Pfc. Colin Wolfe: the 14-year-old who saw what happened Sept. 11, 2001, and decided that he wanted to be a Marine, and the 19-year-old pickup driver who left for Iraq in July.

And then there was the side that Colin didn't really talk about but that many in Manassas knew: the ballet dancer. The boy capable of pirouettes and graceful leaps who grew into a teenager able to guide his dance partners with poise.

"He was talented. At some level, he took pride in it," his father, Mark Wolfe, said yesterday, just hours after two Marines had arrived at 4:45 a.m. at the family's Manassas home to tell him and his wife, Amy, that their son had been killed.

Colin had been riding in the back of a truck in Anbar province when it hit a roadside bomb, Wolfe said yesterday. His son had been deployed July 13 and was to return in February, he said.

The Department of Defense does not confirm combat deaths until 24 hours after families are notified.

Wolfe said that his son was a typical teenager interested in soccer, football and girls but that there was also a strong pull in him toward the Marines, a pull that intensified after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"He was doing what he wanted to do, and he was believing in what he was doing," Wolfe said. "And so it was not a wasted death."

There is some solace in this, he said. "There has to be."

Although the Marine Corps issued no official statement, throughout Manassas, news of the death flowed from Osbourn High School, which Colin graduated from in 2005, and through the artistic community, in which his parents are major figures. Amy Wolfe is artistic director of the Manassas Dance Company, where her son grew up performing.

"Colin has been a mainstay in 'The Nutcracker' for many years," said Sheryl Bass, a city school board member and president of the dance company board of directors. He played the boy Fritz, a soldier and a partygoer in the classic Christmas show.

"He's amazing," Bass said.

What impressed her most, she said, was how he had matured from a mischievous little boy she had to keep an eye on into a mature, dependable dance partner.

"The young men are the girls' stability. They are there for the young ladies to hold on to, knowing that these young men won't let them fall," she said. Colin was particularly strong, she said.

The girls were one of the main appeals of dance for his son, Wolfe said, adding that ballet was never Colin's first love but that he could hold his own. His son had been dancing since he was 3 years old and performed right up until he enlisted, Wolfe said.

"Giselle" was his last performance, in May 2005.

That's when he left Manassas to join the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, in a weapons company at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Jerry Martin, a track coach and one of Colin's teachers at Osbourn, said that before Colin enlisted, they spent weeks talking about the risks of going to war. Martin, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, had taught a class on lessons of the Vietnam War at Osbourn, and Colin took it.

"I explained to him that it was easy to talk about a war, but once you are there, it's a different story," Martin said yesterday, his voice choking on tears. "He said, 'I understand that this is pretty serious, but I think I'm up to the task.' "

Colin "could have very easily fit into college, wherever he wanted to go. He was the kind of kid that made friends very easily," Martin said. "Every time I tried to steer him in another direction, he said, 'Coach Martin, I've made up my mind, and this is what I want to do.' "

Martin, who was shot and disabled in the Vietnam War, said he asked Colin about his decision one last time, right before he was deployed.

"Without hesitation, he said, 'I'm ready to do it,' " Martin said.

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