NY Post - December 08, 2004


PHIL Engeldrum had been dry-eyed until I mentioned the Friday nights in the pub.

"Yeah, what a great, great kid," said the father of Chris Engeldrum, 39, as the words choked.

I had just been with Capt. Bill Hart of Bravo Company of the 105th Infantry, who had returned from battle in Iraq just before his buddy, Chris, gave the ultimate for us all, dying in a roadside bombing outside Baghdad on Nov. 29.

Bill and I had been reminiscing about Friday nights at Tommy McGrath's pub on 57th Street, after he and Chris would complete a training night for the National Guard at the 68th Street Armory.

Chris was in those years of 1993-94 exactly like Fire Lt. Brian Horton of Ladder 61 had described him: "He had presence, an absolute presence, never loud or noisy."

Chris would leave the loudness and noise to myself and an unnamed member of the NYPD pipe band that would make Friday nights a difficult one for those intent on slumber in the neighborhood.

It was pretty stupid to ask anyone there at the wake at Schuyler Funeral Home in The Bronx what Chris was like, so Bill, a cop in the 10th Precinct, saved me the embarrassment. "See how many people are packing that place?" Captain Bill said. "Every one of them would tell you he or she is Chris's best friend, and they mean it. And that's what kind of a guy he was."

A veteran of the first Gulf War, a cop, a firefighter and a war fighter, Chris Engeldrum put into motion a new definition of the word sacrifice.

His father said: "I worry about his wife Sharon, who is now pregnant and has two growing sons. And then with me and my wife, the grief comes in small waves and then in big waves, but my son was there for the right reason."

A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Benedict's Church on Otis Avenue in The Bronx, and he will be finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday — one of the most hallowed pieces of ground on God's earth.

And as we said our farewells to this extraordinary man, it was like, of all people, defense attorney Ben Brafman said it would be, while I dealt with the fact that my son, Captain Pete, is now in Iraq.

Brafman, who has a son studying in Israel, told me: "You hear about a bomb blast and deaths and you go crazy until hear your son's voice saying that he's OK. Then we are relieved and then you get terrible guilt because you know somebody's son was killed and here you are feeling relieved. Terrible guilt."

I know exactly what he was talking about.