A Wentzville man was among 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing this week at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
Two members of Missouri’s congressional delegation confirmed Friday afternoon that Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, was among the dead.
His father, Mark Schmitz, told the Post-Dispatch his son was a St. Louisan, a patriot and a dedicated Marine.
“Amazing kid, amazing young man, with a big future that’s now been cut short,” he said.
Schmitz decided on the Marines around his freshman and sophomore years in high school, his dad said. Once he made up his mind, he made himself a regular at the Marine office in St. Peters and began training religiously with recruits even though he wasn’t yet enlisted.
“We used to give him trouble about it,” Mark Schmitz said, “but of course, now we look back on it with admiration.”
He said he didn’t know exactly what drew his son to the Marines, especially because the rest of the veterans in the family were in the Navy. But Schmitz said Jared liked to chart his own path and relished joking with his relatives that his branch was better than theirs.
Jared Schmitz graduated from Fort Zumwalt South with the class of 2019, a district spokeswoman said.
Mark Schmitz said his son enlisted the same year and embraced the calling.
“Never seen him more focused on one thing in his entire life than training to be the best Marine he could be,” he said.
He ended up among more than 5,000 Marines deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S.-backed government fell to the Taliban insurgency.
Their mission was to secure the airport in the capital, Kabul, so the military could evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan refugees.
Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of people trying to get into the airport Thursday, killing dozens of Afghan civilians in addition to U.S. troops. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who as U.S. Central Command chief is overseeing the airlift as well as troops throughout the Middle East, said in a briefing Thursday that the assailants were Islamic State fighters.
McKenzie later suggested the fighters were associated with the Afghanistan offshoot of the Islamic State group, which opposes both the Taliban and the West.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., both paid tribute to Schmitz in statements posted to social media Friday afternoon.
“His life and lives of every soldier we’ve lost in war will never be forgotten,” Luetkemeyer said.
Mark Schmitz said he would be traveling Saturday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to claim his son’s body.
Funeral arrangements are to be determined. Schmitz said many people have already reached out with support.
“I have a feeling that his funeral procession will be nothing less than astronomical,” he said.