Thursday, November 01, 2007

Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss

Remember Our Heroes

Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss, 27, of Newport, RI.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two airmen and a Department of the Air Force civilian who were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Nov. 1, 2007 near Balad Air Base, Iraq, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device. All were assigned as special agents to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Schuldheiss was assigned to Detachment 204, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Dad recalls patriotism of fallen son

By Linda Borg
Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss was nothing if not well-prepared. In his will, written before he left for Iraq, the counterintelligence specialist left $1,000 for the bar tab at his funeral.

He also asked that his ashes be spread over the Gulf of Mexico, in international waters 3 miles out, because he was someone who didn’t belong to any one place.

Everyone expected to celebrate Nathan’s homecoming on Thanksgiving. But, on Thursday, Nathan and two other special agents were killed near the Balad Air Force Base in Iraq when an improvised explosive device burst next to their military vehicle.

Nathan Schuldheiss was 27 years old, a graduate of Roger Williams University School of Law and a civilian assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. His job was to ferret out insurgents who might pose a threat to the military men and women assigned to the region. During his five months in Iraq, the work done by Nathan Schuldheiss and his team led to the arrest of 13 insurgents.

Nathan was on his way to interview a group of informants when the bomb exploded, according to his father, Jeff Schuldheiss, who lives in Newport, where he runs a bed-and-breakfast.

“He volunteered to go to Iraq,” Jeff Schuldheiss said yesterday. “His boss said, ‘You don’t have to go.’ But he had this calling. He couldn’t shake it. He told his mom, ‘If anything happens, remember, I had a full life.’ ”

Nathan was a natural leader, his father said, someone whose dreams were writ large. He talked about pursuing a career with the CIA or the FBI and joked about running one of those organizations one day. But he also talked about sailing around the world and opening a club with his friends.

“He was the consummate gentleman and smart aleck when we needed some humor,” a special agent wrote on a Web site called The Officer Down Memorial Page. “I will always remember his mischievous smile and his grace.”

Robert Waterman, a professor of political science at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., remembered Nathan as a student with remarkable self-confidence who was adept at making connections between political theory and contemporary politics.

“He always seemed to know what he was doing,” Waterman said. “You felt that something important would happen to him.”

Nathan was an adventurer, a young man with a real sense of wanderlust. As an Air Force brat, his family was always on the move and, as an adult, he visited all but 2 of the 50 states.

Jeff Schuldheiss said his son decided to work in counterintelligence because he knew that the experience would be invaluable and possibly life-changing.

“He was absolutely patriotic,” his father said. “He has a quote in his will that says something like, ‘War is not the worst of things. Even worse is the person who believes that there is nothing worth fighting for…’ ”

Despite his 27 years in the Air Force, Jeff Schuldheiss was completely unprepared for the knock at the door Thursday, when two uniformed Air Force officers informed him about their sorrow over the “untimely death of your son.”

“It didn’t click,” he said. “They’re not coming for him. No. It can’t be. It’s absolutely a mistake. This isn’t right.”

Schuldheiss never once considered that his son wouldn’t return from Iraq because Nathan was always so dedicated and well-equipped and determined to finish whatever he set out to do.

“I’m 53 years old and I know that not everybody is the same as the next person,” his father said. “There are some people who are the leaders, the coaches, the people who continue to get better. Nate was a shooting star who burned so brightly.”

Nathan, the wanderer, will be remembered as he lived. A funeral service will be held in Colorado, where his mother, Sarah Conlon, lives.

His gravestone will be placed in Spokane, next to his maternal grandmother’s grave.

And, in a couple of weeks, his ashes will be spread over the Gulf of Mexico, where he loved to sail.

Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss was killed in Iraq on 11/01/07.

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