OTTUMWA, IA, USA
CPL, COMPANY E, 215TH COMBAT SUPPORT BATTALION, FORT HOOD, TEXAS
BAQUBAH, IRAQ 12/31/2006
Hundreds of mourners attended services Monday to say good-bye to Corporal Jonathan E. “Jon” Schiller, 20, a 2004 Ottumwa High School graduate who was killed fighting in Iraq. Services were held in the OHS Auditorium.
“He’s not a hero because he died. He’s a hero because of the way he lived,” said 2nd Lt. John Paluska, an Army infantry officer -and OHS grad – wounded by a bomb in Iraq six weeks ago.
Paluska said he remembered his fellow Ottumwan as someone who could make anyone smile. He told mourners of the day he heard Schiller was in the Army, too.
“In the summer of 2005 … I called him up, and welcomed him into the brotherhood,” Paluska said. “I realized he had grown into a man. I could hear the loyalty … in his voice.”
He explained that Schiller had entered at the lowest possible pay grade, E-1, private, but quickly rose through the ranks to E-4, specialist. He was then promoted to a leadership position: E-4, corporal.
The lieutenant said he wasn’t surprised Schiller had become a leader in the Army; he’d always been a leader. Friends and family laughed when Paluska recalled that in high school, Schiller had shown “leadership qualities” of a different sort, even when getting his friends to make prank phone calls for him.
“The Army molded him into a professional soldier and gentleman,” Paluska said.
He recalled another phone conversation they’d had just before Schiller deployed to Iraq. He didn’t realize, he said, it would be the last time they would speak.
According to the military, Schiller and another soldier were killed when insurgent forces detonated an improvised explosive device directly adjacent to the armored Humvee in which [Schiller] was a passenger. The attack occurred during a combat patrol near Baqubah, Iraq during the afternoon of Dec. 31.
Schiller had spent time with his fellow soldiers in the 1st Cavalry, and made friends. U.S. Army Sergeant Stanley Struthers spoke of meeting the tall, friendly Schiller. He said they became good friends in the time they worked on military vehicles together, and that he came to love the fun-loving Schiller.
He said there were other 1st Cavalry soldiers who will also miss Schiller. He read e-mails from soldiers in Iraq talking about Jon’s sense of humor and his fondness for telling stories that “were a little far fetched.” The theme from many speakers, and from those soldiers who wrote, was that no matter how bad things got over there, Schiller could always make them laugh.
Jonathan was awarded several medals including the bronze star and Purple Heart. He is survived by his parents, Bill and Liz.