The Lucas Schmitz story
It was a solemn but hopeful Veterans Day for the family and friends of Lucas Schmitz, the first and only Iraq war casualty in the immediate Perham area. His girlfriend, Christina Rethemeier read this message from Lucas at the Perham High School V...
It was a solemn but hopeful Veterans Day for the family and friends of Lucas Schmitz, the first and only Iraq war casualty in the immediate Perham area. His girlfriend, Christina Rethemeier read this message from Lucas at the Perham High School Veterans Day program Nov. 11.
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When asked to tell the story of my experiences, I became very overwhelmed. How do I explain who I am and what I've done?
I am Luke Schmitz... I would like to say I'm a normal guy, I love hunting, fishing, hanging with friends and of course girls. What made me join the military was guilt. I felt guilty watching the news and seeing men fight and die. I felt guilty that I wasn't doing anything. I tried to go through college with this guilt hanging over me. I finally decided to sign up. I walked into the Bemidji National Guard armory one day and sat down and told them I wanted to join the Infantry. A day later I was raising my right hand and swearing an oath to defend man, country and to uphold the constitution. From that day my "would be" normal life was changed forever. Speeding through all the sweat, cold, blisters, aches and long days of training; I found myself in Iraq. I was now a specialist in Able Company 2 of the 136 Combat Arms Brigade. This is who I am... There really is no way for me to ease into what happened on July 25th, 2006.
My squad and I were coming back from one of our daily patrols out on sector. It had been a long day and I asked my fellow squad mate if he could gun for me. He obliged and climbed up into the gun turret that was mounted on top of our fully Up armored Humvee. We were leading the other three gun-trucks back on a dirt road when the first IED hit us. The loud explosion completely blew the front of our truck off. Immediately the inside filled with smoke and we all were yelling to get out. I grabbed my rifle quickly and got out of the smoking truck. I saw my friend and battle buddy Mike Klienschmidt (from Vergas) get out with me. We both turned back and helped Brian Schmidt out of the truck. I turned quickly to look to see if my team leader was ok, he was getting out and yelling to get back to the second humvee. I ran out and scanned the hill side next to us for the IED detonator or an ambush. I yelled back to Mike and Schmidt to run to the second truck. As I ran ahead of them both I stepped on a pressure censored IED. Two 125 millimeter mortars exploded only feet away from me. I was tossed into the air and landed on my back. With my head spinning and ears ringing I sat up and saw that my right leg had been sheered almost completely off. There was no pain only fear. I screamed yelling for Mike and turned to find him near our burning humvee. I looked down at my leg seeing it bleeding very severely. I knew it was arterial bleeding and I needed to stop it quickly. I thumbed down on my vest to get my tourniquet out. My right hand was useless due to my thumb being almost severed off and the other shrapnel sticking out of it. I managed to get the tourniquet out and ready to be put on when our medic got to me. I calmed down and told him to get it on. After that I told him to check me over for any other severe bleeding. Once I was assessed on the ground they moved me to a Humvee and raced out of the area.
Through it all I was awake. I started to get cold and thirsty and knew what that meant. I was close to going into shock. I told Mike what to tell my parents and Tina and got ready to die.
Things after I got to the field hospital get blurry because I was in and out of consciousness for about two weeks. A month after the accident the blurry haze of antibiotics, painkillers and my severe concussion started to fade away. I beat it.
Now that it's Veterans Day, three and a half months after my injury, I'm thinking a lot about who I am now. I still feel as if I am a soldier. I think every day about my friends and comrades back in Iraq. I feel guilt. The guilt I felt before I joined. I feel guilty not being there with them. I feel like I need to protect them, but I can't. I pray and hope every day that nothing happens and everyone is safe. All soldiers over seas are working unbelievably hard every day for us and each other. Veterans Day isn't a day that you roll your eyes and get out of class to come listen to some speech. It means that you honor the retired, the fallen, the wounded, and the still working troops that have and are still fighting for us. I will leave you with the sacrifices made so far in this war in Iraq for you to reflect on. Each number is a man or women, a real person that has served to the fullest.
2839 deaths---including my friend and Sergeant Joshua Hanson. (Dent area Guardsman and Pelican Rapids High School graduate who was killed in Iraq earlier this fall.)
21,572 wounded---roughly 10,000 of which were sent home with life altering wounds.
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After reading the Schmitz letter at the PHS auditorium Vets Day ceremony, Christina Rethemeier continued with a few of her own thoughts.
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There are numerous stories of his...months of recovery, ones that will be engraved in Luke's, his family's and my mind forever. The recovery process had some major downfalls, two of which almost took his life.
Veterans aren't just the guys who march in parades and tell war stories, and war isn't a thing of the past you watch on the history channel or suffer through in history class. Veterans are all those, living and dead, who served with the U.S. armed forces. They may be your parents, your grandparents, cousins, siblings, and even your classmates.