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Community support for local Marine killed in Afghanistan continues

Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, a 20-year-old Wentzville resident and Marine, was among the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 26. 

Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz (Source: U.S. Marines)

Schmitz was a 2019 graduate of Fort Zumwalt South who was deployed to Afghanistan within the last two weeks. He was one of 6,000 Marines deployed to Kabul to support non-combatant evacuation operations for both American and Afghan refugees following the siege of the capital city by Taliban fighters.

On Aug. 26, two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of people at the airport gate, killing civilians and troops in the process. Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command that oversees U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, said in an official briefing that the assailants were Islamic State fighters.

In addition to the 13 confirmed deaths, another 18 people were wounded as a result of the attack.

The Marines delivered the news Schmitz’s family on Friday, Aug. 27.

Mark Schmitz, Jared’s father, took to Facebook on Aug. 30 to extend his thanks to, “literally the thousands of people (some I know and some are complete strangers) who have extended their hands, hearts and hugs to me and my family. Your love and support have definitely made a difference in our lives.”

Mark and Sue, Jared’s mother, were able to receive his body stateside along with the 12 other families during a dignified transfer ceremony held at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday, Aug. 29.

“Seeing the pain and anger on the faces of the other grieving families was incredibly difficult,” Mark said in his Facebook post on Aug. 30. “We were greeted by 4-star generals and heads of state who had many powerful words for us and nothing but the utmost respect for our son Jared. We were given the time to tell his story to each and everyone of them in our own way. Now that we are home we prepare to welcome Jared back home to St. Louis in another week or so. Funeral arrangements are being made and will be announced once final.”

Mark said that Jared will be laid to rest at Jefferson Barracks with full honors.

A wreath in honor of Schmitz was laid at the Marine Corp Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 31.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said that he spoke to the Schmitz family and offered his condolences. 

“Today I spoke with the family of Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz … a Marine who lost his life yesterday in the Kabul attacks, while proudly serving this nation. I promised his family that his service and his legacy will not be forgotten,” Hawley said in a statement posted to Twitter.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, in a statement said “Countless Americans get to see their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and loved ones again because Jared exhibited a bravery most people aren’t capable of. His life and the lives of every soldier we’ve lost in war will never be forgotten.”

Other forms of support have continued to pour forth from the St. Charles County community in the form of donations, fundraisers and other initiatives.

Fort Zumwalt South began a football game on Aug. 27 with a moment of silence, and Fort Zumwalt North lowered their flag and paid tribute to Schmitz at their season’s opening football game the same night.

According to Missouri State Representative Nick Schroer (R-District 107), who represents parts of St. Charles County, restaurants and bars across the St. Louis area donated proceeds of purchases over the weekend of Aug. 28-29 to the Schmitz family. Sugarfire Wentzville launched an “American Gyro” dine-in special on Aug. 29 where 100% of the proceeds benefitted the Schmitz family.  The restaurant reported that with over 600 specials sold, and with cash donations they hoped to raise $12,000 for the Schmitz family.

In Ellisville, Clancy’s Irish Pub also honored the fallen service members by placing 13 pints of beer at their bar the weekend following the attack, one for each service member. 

The historic, family-owned establishment is operated by fellow veteran Olivia Clancy, who was previously stationed in San Diego, California with the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Bonhomme Richard on which she deployed. 

The restaurant is normally closed on weekends. However, when Clancy turned on the news and heard of the attack, she said she was “devastated.”

“I just totally broke down,” Clancy said.

Clancy said that, while re-enlisting wasn’t a possibility for her at this point in her life, she wanted to show her respect as a bar owner.

“I did what I knew I could do as a bar owner to recognize these kids to honor them and pay my respects, and for a bar owner, that’s pouring them a pint and saving them a spot at the table,” Clancy said. “… I’m glad his family is getting support, and the community is coming out in droves for their son. It’s a very special thing.”

When asked if she was surprised by the ongoing community support following the tragedy, she said she was not.

“I think that for people who get away from their television and their cellphones and get out in the community and start talking with people and interacting with society, it isn’t really surprising,” Clancy said. “There’s a lot more good in this world than there is bad.”

Schroer stated on social media that plans are in the works with the Patriot Guard, Missouri Highway Patrol, VFW and others to honor Jared in a safe way from Lambert Airport in the future.

Schroer also said there are efforts underway to name a St. Charles County bridge in Jared’s honor. 

Donations are being accepted through the St. Louis Hero Network to set up a future charity in Jared’s memory. USA Mortgage has announced it will cover 100% of the processing fees, meaning that all donations go straight to the family. The goal is to reach $100,000.

Donations can be submitted online at one.bidpal.net/jaredschmitzmemorial/browse/donation(details:item/1) or by sending a check in the mail to the LCPL Jared Schmitz Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 396, O’Fallon, MO 63366.

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