John Taylor Schmidt III
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 13, 2005
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lance Corporal John T. Schmidt III, 21, of Brookfield, Connecticut, died May 11, 2005, from wounds received as a result of an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, on January 30,2005. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Schmidt’s unit was attached to 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Media with questions about this Marine can
call the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office at (910) 451-9033.
A Marine from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has died nearly four months after suffering severe injuries during combat in Iraq.
Lance Corporal John T. Schmidt III, 21, who lived with his mother and stepfather in Brookfield, Connecticut, was injured January 30, 2005, in an explosion during combat in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He died Wednesday (11 May 2005) at an Army hospital in San Antonio, Texas, according to his Florida relatives.
His father, John Schmidt Jr., 45, of Bunnell, Florida, said his son had been on a ventilator for three months because of pneumonia. Schmidt said he visited his son days before he died, and was prepared for the worst.
"They told us he had a 25 percent chance of getting through it," he said. "So we had a good idea he wasn't going to survive but a few days or a week."
Schmidt III was with fellow platoon members in an agricultural building near Fallujah when they came under attack, family members said at the time of his injuries. He suffered severe burns to his face and lungs when a mortar shell ruptured a tank of ammonia.
"Johnny inhaled the ammonia and it burned his lungs," said Richard Backlund, the Marine's grandfather, who's lived in St. Augustine Beach for 15 years. "His lungs would not come back. He couldn't breathe."
Schmidt III was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, at Camp Lejeune. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Schmidt's unit was attached to 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Judith Heise, a Brookfield selectman, said town officials and others tried to honor Schmidt when they learned he was injured in January. A sign over a railroad bridge quoted the Marines' motto, Semper Fi, and a photo of the bridge was posted in town hall and signed by municipal employees.
"We have all followed his progress," Heise said. "I'm extremely sorry."
Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, who also lives in Brookfield, said in a statement that "brave men and women from our state continue to make sacrifices for our nation in the cause of freedom."
Rell asked Connecticut residents to pray for the family.
"We share their grief," Rell said.
Relatives said Schmidt III will be buried May
25, 2005, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Taps" is played during the funeral of Army Ranger Captain Russell B. Rippetoe at Arlington National Cemetery April 10, 2003. Rippetoe, 27, of Arvada, Colorado, was the first soldier from the Iraqi conflict laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. On Wednesday U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal John T. Schmidt III of Brookfield wil also be buried there.
A quarter of a million Americans are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. There are veterans of every war, including the American Revolution, beneath the white headstones that line the 624 acres of green rolling hills outside Washington, D.C.
There are legendary generals, and there are anonymous infantrymen buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
This week — on Wednesday at 3 p.m. — U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal John T. Schmidt III of Brookfield will join them. Schmidt died this month in a Texas military hospital, four months after sustaining burns on his lungs, esophagus and skin when a rocket hit a building in which he was sleeping.
Schmidt will be the 135th person to be buried in Section 60 of the vast cemetery. Section 60 is reserved for men and women who died fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"It's a larger section where there is lots of space left," said Lori Calvillo, a public affairs officer for Arlington National Cemetery.
Often, the funerals for service members are well-attended. Five busloads of Marines and 32 carloads of friends and relatives attended the funeral of Lance Corporal Lawrence Philippon of West Hartford last week.
Like Schmidt, Philippon was killed in Iraq. But Schmidt's funeral, at the request of his family, will be private. Only family members and close friends are invited.
Brookfield First Selectman Jerry Murphy, a U.S. Navy officer for 31 years. is planning to attend the services. So is Police Chief Robin Montgomery, a retired Marine.
Considered the most moving moment of the ceremony, the American flag that draped the casket is presented to the family. Above, Anutarapon Patchem accepts the flag at the funeral of her son, Marine Corporal Kemaphoom Chanawongse, of Waterford, Connecticut, who died in Iraq on March 23, 2003.
"Marines are a class of warrior unto their own," Murphy said. "They're very respectful of their dead."
Murphy said he worked at the Navy Annex, which borders Arlington National Cemetery, for two years in the 1960s. He would walk around the grounds of the cemetery during his lunch breaks.
Although he plans to be buried in his family's plot in Norfolk, Murphy considers Arlington National Cemetery the "big leagues."
"It's really hallowed ground," Murphy said. "The funerals are a tribute to fallen soldiers and couldn't be better."
A soldier, sailor or Marine need not have died in a war to be buried at Arlington. Most service members who were on active duty at the time of their deaths are eligible, as are many retired members of the military.
Souses and dependent children of a person buried at Arlington are also allowed to be buried there; sharing a plot, their caskets are stacked one on top of another.
Calvillo said the cemetery averages about 27 funerals each day, with three to four funerals going on every hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
There are two types of military burials — the standard service, which is what Schmidt will receive, and the full honor burial for higher ranking officers. The full honors include a band and a horse-drawn caisson which carries the body.
Calvillo said Schmidt's body will be brought to the cemetery in a hearse.
"A casket team will meet the hearse," Calvillo said. The casket team, made up of Marines, will carry the flag draped casket to the burial plot. Funeral guests will park their cars outside the cemetery and walk behind the casket in a funeral procession.
The Marines will place the casket on a pedestal near the grave site. About eight chairs will be placed near the pedestal for family members. A military chaplain will give the eulogy.
Next, seven members of a Marine Honor Guard will fire three consecutive volleys in unison.
Calvillo said people think because there are seven members of the firing party firing three shots each, that it's the equivalent of a 21-gun salute. But it's not. "Only the president gets the 21 gun salute," Calvillo said.
Once the shots are fired, a bugler from the Third Infantry Old Guard will play "Taps."
Next comes what Murphy and others call the most moving moment of the ceremony. The Marine casket team will fold the American flag draped atop the casket into a triangle shape.
One of them will then present the flag to Schmidt's family. "They say 'Please except this token of appreciation from a grateful nation,'" Murphy recalled.
Relatives can stay with the casket for a few minutes after the ceremony. But they are not permitted to be present when the casket is lowered into the ground.
There is no monetary cost to Schmidt's family for the service. "The casket is provided if the person dies on active duty," Calvillo said. The family can choose wood or metal.
The white marble headstones are 42 inches long, 13 inches wide, 4 inches thick and weigh about 230 pounds. Calvillo said Schmidt's headstone will not be in place for at least two to three months.
Following the funeral, his family may meet with the cemetery's funeral director to pick the words they want on the headstone.
"If they need more time (to decide), they certainly
can have it," Calvillo said.
Barbara Jimenez wants Connecticut's soldiers at war to enjoy a proper welcome home - the one her own son never lived to see.
Her 21-year-old son, Lance Corporal John T. Schmidt III, left for his first tour in Iraq in the middle of January 2005. Just two weeks in, he inhaled a chemical substance so toxic that it burned his lungs from the inside out.
Schmidt arrived at Bradley International Airport in a coffin.
But most of his fellow soldiers are coming home alive, and like her son, Jimenez said, they deserve a hero's welcome. So in a January e-mail to Governor M. Jodi Rell, she asked for one.
In a few weeks, a large "Welcome Home" banner, visible from the landing strip, will be unveiled at Bradley Airport for all soldiers returning home to see.
"When those soldiers come back from Iraq, one of the first things they're going to see is that banner, welcoming them home," said Jimenez, a Brookfield resident. "I'm just thinking, that's going to mean a lot to them - and to their families."
Airport officials announced their plans for the banner during a Thursday meeting of Bradley's board of directors. State officials said the banner will read: "Governor M. Jodi Rell and the state of Connecticut welcome home our troops. Thank you for your service. "
Transportation Commissioner Ralph Carpenter said the banner is near completion and should be ready to unveil in the next few weeks. Smaller welcome signs will be displayed throughout the airport, he said.
L. Scott Franz, chairman of the board of directors, summed up the board's approval in one word Thursday: "Bravo."
"We want people to know that these letters [like Jimenez's] aren't coming in and being dismissed," Carpenter said.
Schmidt will never see Bradley's banner, but he did see one.
As he fought for his life in a military hospital in Texas, Schmidt was handed a picture. It was a picture of a banner at least 12 feet long hanging from a bridge in his hometown. His name, in bold, black letters, was splashed across it.
Apparently, Jimenez said, Brookfield's first selectman had hung up the banner himself when he heard that Schmidt had been injured.
Schmidt was so heavily medicated by then that he was showing almost no emotion. But when he saw that picture, Jimenez said, he broke through the fog.
"When he saw that, there was emotion in his face," she said. "He just couldn't believe they hung a banner for him."
Jimenez didn't bother driving to the airport the day her son's coffin arrived. She said she didn't feel the need to watch his coffin roll down the tarmac.
Instead, she waited for her son at the funeral home and saw him buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
But in a few weeks, she said, when Bradley
Airport unveils its banner, she will be there.