There were four of them in their ROTC days, and they were inseparable, a band of brothers -- all born leaders, star students, excellent soldiers. "We called them the Four Musketeers," recalled retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Wolfenden, commander of their battalion in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley in the late 1990s.
Now there are three.
Gone is Army Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, the U.S. intelligence officer killed Sunday in a grenade attack in Kuwait, allegedly by a fellow soldier. It is a fate no one in Seifert's large community of friends, teachers, fellow Moravian Church members and neighbors could have contemplated for a young man so committed to his country and fellow soldiers.
"To think that a fellow comrade could have done this to a man with such a penchant to serve his country," Wolfenden said, his voice catching. "It's really hard."
Seifert, an only child from the rural outskirts of Easton, Pa., is being mourned like a brother by friends from almost every stage of his life.
"Moravian College is proud to have such an alumnus," said Ervin J. Rokke, president of the Bethlehem, Pa.-based college where Seifert was an honors history student, dormitory resident adviser, fraternity leader and Special Olympics volunteer who married the student government president, Terri Flowers.
"We were very proud to have him as a Big Brother," said Maryjean deSandes, executive director of the Lehigh Valley's Big Brothers and Big sisters of America. It named Seifert its College Big Brother of the Year in 1996 for his work with a boy named David, whom he mentored from age 10 through 12.
"Most college students stayed with us only a year, but Chris was unique," deSandes said. "He stayed for three years. He never missed a Wednesday with David." DeSandes declined to identify David except to say he was failing some subjects when he was matched with Seifert but was an A student when Seifert graduated. It was David who nominated him for big brother of the year, she said.
"Chris made everyone want to be a better person," said Paul Kriebs, a friend from high school, where Seifert played saxophone in the jazz and concert bands, headed the drama tech crew and made the National Honor Society.
A neighbor, Helen Ritter, 71, recalled how Seifert, as a little boy, once went all over their wooded neighborhood looking for her lost dog, Penny (he found him). As a soldier overseas, he found a chocolate candy in Germany called Ritter and brought home a box for her and her husband on every visit.
Wolfenden said it was typical of Seifert to have bonded so closely with ROTC classmates Greg Soule, Joel Kostlac and Roy Beeson. They were the four top cadets by rank, he said. Soule was lieutenant colonel; Seifert, Kostlac and Beeson were majors.
Each of them, according to Wolfenden, was golden -- Soule, a Division I lacrosse player at Lehigh University; Beeson a starting quarterback and starting pitcher at Moravian; Kostlac and Seifert devoted to studies, training, community service and friends. Seifert, a lanky 6 foot 2 with brown hair and an unusually wide smile, was not a natural athlete, Wolfenden said, but he made himself into one by running at every opportunity -- even the two miles to and from Moravian College to the ROTC program, housed at Lehigh University.
Helen and Thomas Seifert were worried about their son's desire to become a soldier, Wolfenden recalled. "They knew the inherent dangers," he recalled. "But Chris was committed, and they were excellent. They supported him 100 percent."
Seifert's passion for becoming a soldier was palpable. He wore his fatigues to class and sometimes wore his uniform to church.
The serious soldier was known for an unfailing sense of humor. At his ROTC senior prom, classmates chose quotations from H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Benjamin Franklin and the Bible to accompany their names in a program. Seifert chose one from Dr. Seuss: "A WASN'T has no fun at all. No he doesn't. A WASN'T just isn't. He just isn't present. But you -- you are YOU! And now, isn't that pleasant?"
Seifert started off as an infantry officer and then was trained in military intelligence, charged with understanding the enemy and briefing the infantry brigade on enemy capabilities. He had served in Europe and Saudi Arabia, and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne when he deployed to the Persian Gulf region. He and his wife had their first child, Benjamin, four months ago.
The other Musketeers battalion were also rising in the military, marrying and having children. Their wives were becoming as close as they had been, Wolfenden said.
Kostlac and Beeson followed Seifert to the Persian Gulf region, Wolfenden said, and Soule is at Fort Hood in Texas, expecting to leave soon. The war in Iraq was to have been the next chapter for the Four Musketeers.