Saturday, January 19, 2008

Army Spc. Jon M. Schoolcraft III

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jon M. Schoolcraft III, 26, of Wapakoneta, Ohio

Spc. Schoolcraft was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Jan. 19, 2008 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

Toledo Blade -- LIMA, Ohio — A U.S. soldier with ties to the Lima area was killed over the weekend in Iraq, his mother said yesterday.

Army Spec. Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III, 26, a 2001 graduate of Wapakoneta High School whose mother now lives in Lima, died after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Taji, just north of Baghdad, his mother, Cynthia Ann Hooker, said.

The U.S. Department of Defense said Specialist Schoolcraft died on Saturday. Mrs. Hooker said she first received the news through a phone call from her daughter-in-law at 11:30 p.m. Friday. Baghdad is about nine hours ahead of the United States’ eastern time zone.

Mrs. Hooker said she spoke with military officials yesterday, who told her Specialist Schoolcraft was sent out on a dangerous mission in daylight, and will receive the Purple Heart medal given to troops killed or wounded in action.

“The sergeant told me he needed Michael to go out and scope the area,” Mrs. Hooker told The Blade. “He was out with two other vehicles. The first vehicle hit an [Improvised Explosive Device] and nothing happened. The second vehicle, which my Michael was in,” her voice trailed off, “an Iraqi detonated the bomb right behind my son’s Jeep.”

Specialist Schoolcraft, of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was serving his second tour in Iraq. His mother said he arrived in Kuwait on Dec. 8 and was deployed to Iraq on Christmas Day.

Specialist School¬craft married his wife, Amber, on Nov. 17 in Wapa¬koneta, and turned 26 on Dec. 27. The couple had a home in Hawaii.

“With this being his second tour, I just thought he would be more aware. … I don’t know,” Mrs. Hooker said while crying. “You just never plan for this. You always believe they’re coming home.”

Tom Karbowiak, of Wapakoneta, said he grew up with Specialist Schoolcraft. He said the two of them enlisted in the military during their senior year of high school, endured boot camp together at Fort Benning, Ga., and were both stationed in Germany until 2003 deployments to Iraq.

Mr. Karbowiak said he and four friends all served in Iraq and returned safely. He tried to convince Specialist Schoolcraft to avoid a second deployment.

“I always told him he should get out, but he loved [being a soldier] too much,” Mr. Karbowiak said.

Those who knew Specialist Schoolcraft described him as a “warm, caring” person who was outgoing and helpful to others.

Mrs. Hooker, who was recently married, said she raised her son and daughter Megan, 24, as a single mother, and Specialist Schoolcraft acted like “the man of the house” at an early age.

“He did a great job taking care of me and his sister,” Mrs. Hooker said. “He will always be my hero, and he would be proud knowing other mothers and wives will get their husbands and sons back sometime because of what he did.”

Aaron Rex, the principal at Wapakoneta High who taught Specialist Schoolcraft in class as a freshman, said “he always had a smile on his face.”

“You could always count on him to be friendly,” Mr. Rex remembered. “I was looking through the yearbooks today, and he was always smiling.”

Mr. Rex said Specialist Schoolcraft, who also attended Apollo Career Center Joint Vocational School in Lima, is the first Wapakoneta student to die serving the U.S. military in Iraq.

Mr. Rex said he hoped to speak with Mrs. Hooker and school district leaders about ways to honor Specialist Schoolcraft.

“This being a small town that we live in where everybody knows each other, people are going to remember Mike,” Mr. Rex said. “His death is going to be a shock to people.”

Army Spc. Jon M. Schoolcraft III was killed in action on 1/19/08.

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