Friday, June 05, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Robert D. Ulmer

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Robert D. Ulmer, 22, of Landisville, Pa.

LCpl Ulmer was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune N.C.; died June 5, 2009 as a result of a nonhostile incident in Taqaddum, Iraq.

Lancaster Online -- Michael Mann remembers Rob Ulmer as a kid who never took himself too seriously.

He did the work Mann assigned him without complaint or hesitation when Ulmer was a student at Lancaster County Career & Technology Center's Willow Street campus.

And Ulmer let everyone know from the moment he walked into Mann's class exactly what his plans were upon graduation.

"From day one, he told everyone he was going into the Marine Corps," Mann said.

When Mann got a phone call Saturday from a high school friend of Ulmer's, who told him the kid with the big booming laugh who couldn't wait to be a Marine had died while serving his country in Iraq, the stepfather of two young men in the military was "devastated."

"It totally took my breath away," said Mann, who has one stepson in the Army and another in the Navy. "The way we teach here, you can't help but get attached to your students, and so it really hit me hard."

A 2006 graduate of Hempfield High School, Lance Cpl. Robert D. Ulmer, 22, was killed Friday in Al Anbar province in what the Department of Defense is calling a "nonhostile incident."

There was no new information available Tuesday about Ulmer's death, according to Major Cliff Gilmore, public affairs officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force headquartered at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"My experience with these types of incidents is the investigators not only want to handle things quickly, but they want to make sure they get it right," Gilmore said. "And besides dealing with this investigation, they've got a full-scale military operation over there in Iraq to deal with."

The son of Douglas and Kim Ulmer of Arizona, formerly of Landisville, Ulmer enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 2006, about a month after he graduated from Hempfield.

Assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, Ulmer was first deployed to Iraq from September 2007 to April 2008, and was sent back with his unit for the second time in March.

Between his deployments, Ulmer last September married Rebecca Feeser, according to county records.

During his senior year at Hempfield, Ulmer enrolled in a class at the Willow Street campus of the Career and Technology Center, where he learned to fix all kinds of motorcycles, recreational vehicles, lawnmowers and other outdoor machines.

Mann, who is now assistant principal of the school, was Ulmer's teacher.

"I don't think he took the class to pursue a career in it," Mann said. "I think he took it for his own personal use. He liked motorcycles, and I think he had a couple that he liked to tinker with."

Mann remembers that whenever he surveyed his students to find out what careers they planned to pursue upon graduation, Ulmer always replied that he was going into the Marines.

"That's all he ever talked about," Mann said. "Not knowing his background, I think serving his country in the military was something both he and his family were very proud of."

Ulmer was a middle-of-the-road student, according to Mann.

"He wasn't at the top of the class, but he wasn't at the bottom, either," he said. "He just did what he was asked to do."

At the Career and Technology Center, students from schools all over Lancaster County are put together in classes designed to teach specific skills, such as repairing outdoor equipment.

"Sometimes, that can create a lot of tension because these are all seniors and they don't know each other," Mann said.

Early on in the 2005-06 school year, Mann said, Ulmer helped "break the tension" in his class one day when he was repairing a motorcycle tire.

"He had straps on the tire that you're supposed to take off when you start to fill the tire with air, but he forgot to take them off," Mann said. "Next thing I know, I hear this loud 'pop' because the sidewall blew out of Rob's tire.

"He laughed it off with his big booming laugh, and that got the other students to laugh. He helped everyone learn we all make mistakes and you just have to move on."

About a week before he graduated from Hempfield High School, Ulmer participated in the ceremony at Willow Street during which seniors receive certificates stating they have successfully completed the programs in which they were enrolled.

Traditionally, a student who has committed to military service is chosen to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of that ceremony.

Ulmer was that student in June 2006.

"Everybody knew he was going into the Marines, so he was picked," Mann said.

As a Marine, Ulmer was awarded the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

Marine Lance Cpl. Robert D. Ulmer was killed in a non-combat related incident on 6/5/09.

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