Marine Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider, 23, of Phoenix, N.Y.
Cpl. Schneider was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 30, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.
Nothing was going to stop Kyle Schneider from becoming a Marine and going to war.
Not the urgings of his family to go to college. He attended Onondaga Community College for one year. Not the offer from his great aunt to buy him a new car if he didn’t enlist.
The 2006 graduate of Baldwinsville’s Baker High School saw his life goal through. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps and graduated near the top of his class. He was offered training for a presidential security assignment in Washington, D.C., his grandparents said. He turned that down, too. He wanted to fight.
Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider, of Phoenix, Oswego County, died Thursday in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, killed by an improvised explosive device. He was 23.
Schneider was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
He was the 45th U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in June, and the eighth last week. That brought the U.S. death toll for the war in Afghanistan to 1,649.
The improvised explosive device was the second he’d encountered in a month, said his grandfather, Richard Vrotny, of Van Buren. The first blast knocked him unconscious, sent him to a hospital and left him with a concussion, hearing loss and headaches. Within 48 hours, he was back in the fight.
His parents, Richard and Lorie Schneider, and his brother, Kevin, were at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, Saturday, for the return of his remains. A memorial service will be scheduled for him in Baldwinsville, his grandparents said.
His grandparents remember him smiling, always smiling — the countenance of a positive disposition.
That relaxed smile appears over and over in family photos, right up through this past Christmas.
“That’s not a staged smile,” his grandfather said.
It was Christmas Eve when he proposed to his girlfriend, Theresa Dodge, an Air Force medic from West Columbia, Texas. They’d met when both were on assignment in Washington, D.C. Schneider had placed a diamond ring on the Christmas tree at his parents’ house, and directed Dodge’s attention to that “beautiful ornament,” the story goes.
Schneider took the Marine motto “Honor, courage, commitment” to heart, his grandparents and his great aunt, Carole Ozark, of Weedsport, said.
He called them all from Afghanistan, just checking in, connecting with them. He called from the hospital after his first bomb blast and told his grandfather “the good thing is, I’ve had my first bath in six weeks,” Richard Vrotny recalled.
The Vrotnys still have one of his quick, 30-second messages on their answering machine.
“Just want to say I love you guys and want to keep in contact as much as I can,” he says in the message.
On June 16, a few weeks after his first bomb blast, he called his great aunt, Carole Ozark.
How are you? she asked.
“I’m doing OK,” he said. “It’s so beautiful over here. I look to the west and I see mountains. I look to the left and I see desert.”
Kyle, when are you coming home?
“Aunt Carole,” he said, “I can’t tell you that.”
Marine Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider was killed in action on 6/30/11.