Courier Staff Writer
OTTUMWA — Cpl. Adam Wolff's final legacy was to bring his family, and his community, together.
Relatives came from around the country Sunday to support their family in Ottumwa. Ottumwa's chief of police was at the ceremony, and so were members of the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
Wolff's older brother Nathan is a Cedar Rapids police officer. Cedar Rapids is where Adam had lived before heading to boot camp. It's also where the Marine Corps sent the corporal's body.
Adam F. Wolff, 25 of Ottumwa, was killed in Afghanistan "as a result of a hostile incident," according to the U.S. Marine Corps. Corporal Wolff (formerly a lance corporal) and two other Marines were killed in “combat operations” in Afghanistan on June 20. Wolff was serving as a Marine combat engineer.
Twice during the service, Wolff's fellow Marines were given recognition: Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart, 34, of Stafford, Virginia and Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Garabrant, 19, of Peterborough, New Hampshire.
All three Marines were assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force. The men's home base stateside was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The funeral service Sunday at Bridge View Center was officiated by Mark Hornback. He's a pastor from the First Church of the Open Bible, a church that played a role in Adam's recent life.
Though he'd grown up as a Christian, his experience in the Marines, and a private talk with a Marine chaplain, brought a stronger desire to be closer in his walk with the Lord. He called his mother, Deb Hall, from Marine training, and asked that she make arrangements for Adam to be baptized. When the time came for Adam to pinch his nose shut and take the plunge, his mother decided to be baptized right alongside him.
From that point on, Hornback said, Deb Hall knew that no matter what happened here on Earth, Adam would be okay.
The amazing support of the Corps was a topic the pastor learned about after he had spoken with the family. A small part of the Marine effort was illustrated to visitors Sunday by the presence of a Marine detail which moved the casket to the Bridge View Center stage. Marines were also stationed at the cemetery.
On several occasions Sunday, Pastor Hornback expressed how much of a difference the support of the community has made for the family. A surprise speaker at the funeral: Adam's twin brother Aaron, who kept his voice mostly steady as he talked about Adam.
"Thank you, everyone, for acknowledging the most important person in my life, my brother, as a hero."
Photos, songs and videos were interspersed through the pastor's presentation. The videos showed Adam, often with his dad, Nick Wolff, and sometimes with sister Angela. Nearly always, however, video images captured the twins together.
Pastor Hornback shared family stories about Adam: He could eat more than anyone in the room, but was thinner than anyone in the room. He loved to nap; when the twin's big brother took them paint balling, Adam insisted he wouldn't get hit. He hid under a bush, and promplty fell asleep.
"What does it mean to be a good person?" Aaron Wolff asked those in attendance at the service. Adam would loan me money, he'd feed you, take you anywhere you needed to go, and never ask for anything in return."
Those at the funeral also heard Adam. Aaron had his twin brother's final voice mail message to him. He played it on speaker phone: "Talk to you later 'little' brother. Love you, bye." Adam, said their sister, was a minute older than Aaron.
The ceremony at Bridge View Center was followed by burial at a small, country cemetery on Copperhead Road south of town. The owner of a local tree service had hung a gigantic American flag over the rural lane leading to Fiedler Cemetery.
The route was lined with flag after flag after flag. Volunteers had spent part of Saturday evening, maps or hammers in hand, pounding flags into the ground along the streets the long funeral procession followed Sunday afternoon.
Wolff was buried at the pay grade of E-4; On Thursday, orders had come from the Marine Corps ordering the posthumous promotion of Lance Corporal Adam Wolff to corporal.
Cpl Wolff's mother, Deb Hall, considered the phone call from her Marine Corps liaison to be good news amid the more difficult conversations she'd had since Adam's death.
Hall, along with Adam's father Nick and brother Nathan, had gone to Dover, Delaware for the Dignified Transfer procedure of the Marine's body. Hall said the Marines there, and in other places, embraced her family as part of their family.
Sara Swanson, a school counselor for the Cardinal school district remembered Adam Wolff.
When Wolff was in school, Swanson worked with students as they explored possible plans for the future. More than a decade ago, Adam told her that he wanted to join the military. He was in eighth grade.
The family noticed a difference in Adam after becoming part of the Corps. He was still kind, but stronger, more mature.
His sister, Angela Malone, said she could see that Adam was proud to be a Marine, and proud to be serving his country.
"Adam didn't go to war to have something to do," said Hornback. "He went to war so we could know freedom. Like Aaron said; it was his calling. He was proud to serve his country and the Lord. When he breathed his last, when he closed his eyes, he was immediately in the presence of the Lord."
Don't lose hope, Rev. Horback said. Don't leave the ceremony angry at God and the world. Yes, we'll miss Adam, he said, because his body is gone.
"Spiritually, he's alive and well."