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Justin B Schmidt


U.S. Army


04/29/2004, BAGHDAD, IRAQ

A melancholy mood swept through the typically cheerful halls at Harllee Middle School on Monday morning. Children at the Bradenton school were greeted with the news that one of the school’s former students, Army Specialist Justin Schmidt, died Thursday in Iraq.”You just stop and think: He was just walking through these halls not too long ago,” said Principal Guy Davis, who was a dean at the school when Schmidt was a student there from 1993 to 1995.

The school plans to display a plaque honoring Schmidt at the school. It will be placed beside another memorial plaque, that of Marine Private First Class Christopher Cobb, another Harllee alumnus, who died serving in Iraq on April 6, 2004.

Pentagon reports state the soldier died on April 29, while conducting a sweep in search of improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs. A vehicle approached the Army unit, and the driver detonated a bomb, according to the Department of Defense.

Jan Schmidt, of Bradenton, said funeral services for her grandson are being planned for May 14, 2004, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. May 13 would have been Justin Schmidt’s 24th birthday. He was to be married May 19 to a woman he met while stationed in Germany. But he found out that his tour was extended and had to postpone his wedding. Jan Schmidt’s eyes welled with tears when she learned a memorial plaque with her grandson’s photo would be placed at the school.

“We’re just heartbroken,” Jan Schmidt said Monday.

Justin Schmidt attended Daughtrey Elementary before going to Harllee Middle School. He went on to attend Bayshore High School, where he was a member of Junior ROTC during ninth and 10th grades, according to Junior ROTC instructor Col. Larry Burnette. He later transferred to Manatee High where he graduated in 1998.

“He was a good man and noble friend,” said Ryan Beggy, who was a friend and classmate of Justin Schmidt’s at Bayshore High.

Family members of the fallen soldier reunited at Bradenton’s Kirkwood Presbyterian Church to honor him along with hundreds of friends and supporters. At the church’s sanctuary, Justin’s gold-framed photo sat beside a folded American flag and was surrounded by flowers.

“He was very proud to serve his country,” said uncle Damon Schmidt to the mourners gathered at the memorial service. He described his nephew as a “kindhearted and loving guy.

Justin’s mother, Lenore Roberts, traveled from her home in Bagley, Minn. His father, Victor, and Justin’s older brother, Jason, came from their home in Lake Lure, N.C. His grandparents, Jan and John Schmidt of Bradenton, also attended the service.

The photos illustrated a lifetime of memories – Justin as a baby being carried by his father, as a young adult playing the drums, smiling with friends and hugging his fiancee, Stephanie Kohler, the German woman he was going to marry May 19. The couple had postponed the wedding when Justin found out that his tour in Iraq had been extended.

The Reverend William Hull told mourners to seek comfort in scripture and from each other. “At a time like this words, fail us,” Hull said. “We cannot in any way adequately reflect Justin’s life.”


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