Father Of Marine Killed In Kabul Reflects On His Son's Life And Saying 'I Love You'
Updated September 1, 2021 at 11:58 AM ET
When a suicide bomber attacked the Kabul airport last week, the lives the 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members were cut short.
One of them was Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz of Wentzville, Mo. He was just 20 years old. Schmitz was only 6 months old when 9/11 happened and the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan.
From a young age, "Jared was an energetic little guy," his father, Mark Schmitz, tells Morning Edition. "He was constantly happy. If you had the opportunity to look through our photo albums, you would see that no matter how we captured him on a camera, he was always smiling nonstop."
Jared wanted to be a Marine from his sophomore year of high school. His father says he was fearful of his son getting into a dangerous type of work, but he knew that being a Marine fit Jared "like a glove." Jared was never studious, Mark says, but once he set his mind on it, he was laser focused on learning everything he could about the Marines. He had to have his parents' permission when he signed up at age 17.
Afghanistan was Jared's first deployment. Earlier, he was at Camp Pendleton in California, then was sent to Jordan. Then he got his orders to go to Kabul.
The last time Mark talked to his son was when he learned where Jared was going. They were still exchanging text messages after that.
He got concerned when he didn't hear from Jared for a day after the bombing. The news came at 2:40 in the morning when two men came to his door in uniform.
"My heart just sunk," he says. "You know, I'm like, OK, they're here to tell me he's injured and what his injuries are. And it took forever for them to get me to comprehend that they were there to deliver the most horrific news of his passing and that he had been killed and not injured. I was half asleep initially, of course, and then just obviously in sheer shock that they were even there to begin with."
In the last few days, Mark has been looking back through his text messages with Jared.
Back on Father's Day "my son is telling me how proud he is of me. You know, he has no idea. I can't even hold a candle to that young man. He has taught me so much. He's a hell of an American. A true hero in every sense of the word."
He was glad he sent a last "I love you" before Jared was killed.
Mark Schmitz wants people to know that "these aren't just words. These guys literally are gone. They have sacrificed everything for this country and please respect all of our military for what they put their rear ends on the line to do. This is not a game. This is the real deal.
"I'll never see my son get married. I'll never see him do anything — provide me grandkids — anything. It's all gone now. It didn't need to happen, it shouldn't have happened. But love our military, support these guys. All of them. And turn out by the thousands when all these brothers and sisters come home to their final resting places."
Mark Schmitz talks about traveling to Dover and what he told President Biden in the full audio interview. Listen here.
This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.