Johns Hopkins University
Fall/Winter 2007
Vol. 5, No. 1

ALUMNI

The Man Who Brings History to Life

> Mourning Two Killed in Action

Airing Their Dirty Linen


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Mourning Two Killed in Action

They graduated from Johns Hopkins within a year of one another-and died in Iraq just weeks apart.

Jonathan Grassbaugh Eng '03 was killed last April 7 while on patrol with his unit in Zaganiyah. Colby Umbrell '04 died in Musayyib on May 3, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. News of the back-to-back deaths left Johns Hopkins alumni, faculty, and staff stunned and saddened.

A winner of the Bronze Star and a number of other decorations, Grassbaugh, 25, was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. The Whiting School graduate is survived by his wife, the former Jenna Parkinson, who concurrently earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history in 2006 from the Krieger School. The couple met as ROTC cadets, when Jenna was a freshman and Jonathan a senior. They were married last June, shortly before Jonathan was deployed to Iraq.

"I don't think I have to tell you that I am beyond heartbroken and have no way to describe to you what a loss this represents not only to me but to the community and to the world," said Jenna Grassbaugh, who went on to study law at the College of William & Mary. "He was more than I could ever ask for in a husband, and he was more than my husband—he was my best friend, my other half, and now he is my angel in heaven."

Umbrell was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army at the time of his death. The 26-year-old paratrooper majored in political science at Hopkins and was a reserve defensive lineman and special teams player on the football team. Coach Jim Margraff described Umbrell, who suffered a relentless string of injuries on the field, as one of the team's hardest-working players and one of the most well liked.

Umbrell signed on for duty in Iraq, his parents said, because he believed strongly that the U.S. mission there was important to the establishment of democracy in that country. At the time of his death, he was working with students at the middle school he once attended in Doylestown, Penn., to collect supplies for Iraqi schoolchildren.

In an e-mail broadcast to faculty, staff, and students, Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody noted that the loss of graduates Umbrell and Grassbaugh "pulled at the hearts" of all who knew them.

"We honor their service," said Brody. "We honor their sacrifice. We grieve with their family and friends. We give thanks for their time with us at Johns Hopkins. We will remember them."