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Westwood hero buried in Arlington, not Paramus

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

U.S. Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek’s remains were buried Monday in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the appropriate tribute to a decorated veteran who did four tours of duty overseas and posthumously received a Purple Heart.

Although the cemetery itself was closed over the weekend and Monday because of the snow, a spokeswoman there said Sgt. Hrbek’s committal service proceeded, as scheduled, at the Administration Building.

A True Hero

There was some initial confusion after a local newspaper incorrectly reported last month that Hrbek was buried in Paramus following a service in his Westwood hometown.

It turns out personal items were buried in the family plot, but the newspaper’s reporters apparently assumed his body was interred.

“His remains are being buried here,” Kaitlin Horst, of the cemetery’s Office of Public Affairs, said Monday morning.

Hrbek, 25, was killed last month in Afghanistan while serving his country.

He was scheduled to return home in May after three tours of duty in Iraq, first in 2005, and a hitch in Afghanistan that began only in November.

He also was about to be awarded a Bronze Star for saving his sergeant major — who, like him, stepped on an IED while under fire just before Christmas.

Born on June 6, 1984, Hrbek was graduated from Westwood High School in 2002. A longtime volunteer fireman from a family of firefighters, he joined the Marines in January 2003.

Hrbek so dedicated his life to helping and protecting others that he also joked and kidded with the best of them, earning the nickname “Dirty Squirrel.”

“I am the backbone of the Marine Corps,” he wrote after being promoted to sergeant. “I serve as a vital link between my commander and all enlisted Marines. I will never forget who I am or what I represent.

“I am now, more than ever, committed to excellence in all that I do, so that I can set the proper example for all other Marines.

“Above all, I will be truthful in all that I say or do. My integrity shall be impeccable as my appearance….Though today I instruct and supervise in peace, tomorrow I may lead in war.”

Hrbek, who leaves a 23-year-old wife, Jamie, was an artillery cannoneer assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he made several friends and became a fan of the Carolina Panthers NFL team.

On a memorial Facebook page , his sister, Lori, said she heard the smoke alarm beep Saturday night and wondered whether it was Chris saying hello.

“I hope it was,” she wrote. “I miss you too much.

“[Today] you will rest amongst your brothers, America’s heroes,” she added, just before Monday’s funeral. “Only the best for you, little bro.”

Kate Sullivan Coen wondered aloud whether the two feet of snow that fell on the nation’s capital would force the government to postpone the burial.

“A couple of Marines will make short work of it in no time. Blizzard or not,” her husband told her. “Nothing will stop them.”

He was correct.

Collage: Jerry DeMarco / CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM

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