GAINESVILLE, FL, USA U.S. Army SPC, COMPANY C, 1ST BATTALION, 18TH INFANTRY, SCHWEINFURT, GM BAGHDAD, IRAQ 08/06/2007
A 22-year-old soldier was killed in Iraq from injuries suffered by an improvised explosive device, his family and the military said August 7. Specialist Christopher T. Neiberger, 22, of Gainesville, died August 6, the Department of Defense said. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.
Neiberger was born in the Bronx, but was raised in Gainesville, his sister, Ami Neiberger-Miller told The Associated Press. Her brother graduated from Gainesville High School in 2003 and attended Florida State University for two years before joining the Army in 2005, Neiberger-Miller said.
“He always wanted to be a soldier. He was the kind of person who grew up loving to play with things that crackled and exploded,” Neiberger-Miller said. “He was very drawn to the military.”
The soldier, known by family members as “the master of one-liners” was considering going to West Point and making the military his career, Neiberger-Miller said. Christopher was remembered during his memorial service for his commitment to helping people from the streets of Gainesville to an orphanage in Mexico. Hundreds packed Trinity United Methodist Church for a memorial service honoring Christopher Todd Neiberger.
Robert Neiberger remembered his older brother as the kind of person who stopped to talk with a homeless man in downtown Gainesville for a half-hour before giving money to him.
“He thought that indifference is everything that is wrong with humanity,” he said.
Friends and family remembered Neiberger’s quick wit, passion for writing and service in foreign lands. Scout leader Paul Davenport said Neiberger embodied the word “volunteer,” participating in missions to Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
“He had the courage to stand for what he thought was right,” Davenport said. “He put feet to his faith.”
The Reverend Dan Johnson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist, said Neiberger’s kindness started early in his life, and he told a story about Neiberger giving a balloon to a kindergarten classmate who burst hers. “There was a kindness about Chris that was remarkable,” he said.
Robert Neiberger said his brother’s favorite book was “All Quiet on the Western Front,” recalling the insights into the book that his brother gave him. He said his brother was a writer who was working on a screenplay set in Iraq. “He had a million things running through his mind at any given time,” he said.
His father, Richard, a pediatric nephrologist at Shands at the University of Florida, spoke briefly to thank the community for an outpouring of support. Johnson said the Neiberger family has shown him the love they continue to feel for Chris.
“I’ve learned from you that while life is fragile, love is forever,” he said.
Besides his sister, Neiberger is survived by two brothers, his father, Richard, and his mother, Mary. Neiberger is buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., his sister said.