ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV.com) — Heaviness set over the St. Charles County community, as people made their way inside Baue Funeral Home Saturday afternoon to honor fallen service member Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz.
“It’s very, very heavy on our hearts,” said Lawrence Danielson. “We’re paying our respects to a young man that died for our country, as we should, and everybody should.”
Several miles of westbound traffic on Interstate 70 in suburban St. Louis were closed Wednesday as the remains of a Marine killed in Afghanistan are escorted from Lambert Airport to a funeral home.
Elected leaders, loved ones, and people who did not know the 20-year-old, trickled in through the seven-hour public visitation. It was an opportunity to pay respects to his mother and father who learned late last month that Jared was one of 13 service members who died during the evacuations in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“The one thing I said [to the parents] is I don’t know what to say to you,” said Jeff Hirsch, Senior Ride Captain for the St. Louis Patriot Guard. “What do you say to somebody that their entire life is just been dismantled and now they’re expected to move on?”
Danielson and his wife say they can relate to the family’s pain in some way, as a family of multiple members in the military. However, they also know how lucky they are to have seen their children come home after serving.
The Navy is now reporting that the helicopter was making a landing on the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier when the aircraft’s rotor hit the deck before falling off the side of the ship. One of the five sailors who didn’t make it was Parkway North High School graduate Bailey Tucker.
“I had three sons in the service, one in Iraq, one in Desert Storm, one in the Persian Gulf, so with me being in the Vietnam era, I feel very proud to be a part of it,” said Danielson. “It’s a closeness that I don’t think anybody can really understand unless you’ve served yourself.
Hirsch says despite leading thousands of remembrances for fallen service members, the sadness does not get any easier, especially as this one falls on the same day as 9/11.
“It’s probably hitting us all the same. It’s a very emotional day for the United States. This on top of with Jared, it’s a very difficult day. Lot of emotions throughout,” said Hirsch.
Hirsch says while Jared’s passing has hit the community hard, it has also brought so much patriotism and love around this Gold Star family.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. So, I applaud St. Louis for coming out for this young man,” said Hirsch. “We’ll honor them for the rest of time.”
A private funeral for Jared Schmitz will be held Thursday. He will be buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.