Monday, November 27, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz, 20, of Carlstadt, N.J.

Lance Cpl. Schwarz died Nov. 27 from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

A small North Jersey town was in grief Tuesday after learning of the death in Iraq of a Marine who was a member of a well-known local family.

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz, 20, of Carlstadt, Bergen County, died Monday from wounds he sustained during combat in Iraq's Anbar province. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune.

"You couldn't go anywhere today without seeing someone visibly upset. The community as a whole will grieve over this," Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman told The Record of Bergen County.

The son and brother of area auto mechanics, Schwarz graduated from Becton Regional High School in 2004.

Along with his brother Frank, Michael Schwarz served in the borough's volunteer fire department. Their father, Kenneth, headed the department for years.

Friends and relatives remembered Michael Schwarz as fun-loving and outgoing. Friends recalled off-road outings in Schwarz's customized Jeep that often ended up with busted parts.

Most of all, there was Schwarz's love of the military and his desire to enlist in the Marines, a wish he expressed even when he was a young child.

"He always wanted to be a soldier," said Chris Assenheimer, a cousin of Schwarz's father.

Schwarz approached going to Iraq with nervous excitement, his friends said. Only a few weeks before, they said, Schwarz had a near miss when a sniper's bullet grazed his helmet.

On Monday, he wasn't as lucky.

"It's hard to believe," said Dana Rawinski, 20, one of Schwarz's best friends.

Rawinski said she had worn a Marines shirt or sweat shirt almost every day since Schwarz went to Iraq.

"I'm waiting for him to come home and laugh at us," Rawinski said.

Losing a 'happy-go-lucky' Marine
Carlstadt suffers the death of Michael Schwarz in combat in Iraq
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Star-Ledger Staff

Michael A. Schwarz was a free spirit who knew what was at stake when he joined the Marines right out of high school, and later when he headed to Iraq.

"He just loved his country. He loved the idea of being a soldier and he loved being a Marine," said the Rev. Donald M. Pitches, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Carlstadt, who baptized the borough native some two decades ago.

"He's not one to second-guess himself or express his doubts," Pitches said. "He was ready to do what he was trained to do."

Schwarz, a 20-year-old lance corporal, died Monday from injuries he sustained while conducting combat operations in the Iraqi province of Anbar, the Department of Defense announced yesterday. He had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Schwarz was the second service member from the Bergen County community and the 64th with ties to New Jersey killed in Iraq.

"Mike had looked forward to joining the Marines ever since I knew him back in the fifth grade. That was his goal back then," said Schwarz's friend Shawn Tilt, also 20.

Tilt said Schwarz joined the Marines after they graduated from Henry P. Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford in 2004. He said he last saw his friend late last summer when Schwarz was home on a two-week leave.

"We just hung out and did what we always did, tried to have a good time," Tilt said. "Mike was a great guy, had a good personality and was easy to get along with. I don't know anybody who didn't like Mike."

Tilt said he had played hockey with Schwarz in a borough recreation league, but his friend's passion was off-roading in his prized Jeep.

"He loved that Jeep," Tilt said. "That was his pride and joy."

At the Schwarz home in Carlstadt -- decorated with multicolored holiday lights, a seven-foot inflatable Santa and an American flag -- a family friend referred reporters last night to the pastor.

Pitches described Schwarz as a 6-footer built "like a string bean."

"He's an all-American boy. He was happy-go-lucky, fun-loving and he loved the outdoors," Pitches said, describing how Schwarz reveled in his jaunts along muddy trails in his customized Jeep.

Pitches said Schwarz's father and mother, Ken and Pam, learned of their son's death when three Marines came to their home Monday.

"They're completely in shock, greatly saddened," Pitches said, adding friends and community members have been coming by the house to offer support. "It's a very well-loved family, very well-respected."

Schwarz was a volunteer firefighter in Carlstadt, following in the footsteps of his father, a mechanic for the borough Department of Public Works, and older brother, Frank.

"Mike's been a volunteer since he was first eligible at age 18," firefighter Karl Ross said. "He was a great kid, exceptional, kind-hearted and a go-getter. I don't know anybody who could say anything bad about Michael."

Jim Bononno, Becton High's athletic director and head football coach, said Schwarz was in his U.S. history class for two years.

"Mike was a wonderful kid," Bononno said. "When something like this happens, everyone says nice things about a person, but Mike was just a really, really good kid. That's what makes this a bigger tragedy."

Bononno said Schwarz's interest in joining the Marines was well-known around the school.

"Mike, that was his dream, to be in the Marines," he said. "That was one of his goals. Any kid who joins the military during a war, that says something special about him."

Ross said: "Mike was a free-spirited individual who understood the danger of being in the Marine Corps and he grasped it and accepted it. He's made this town very proud."

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz was killed in action on 11/27/06.


Anonymous said...

Michael way not be here with us on earth, but he is still very much alive in the minds and hearts of his family and friends.

Michael, I miss you more then anything and know you are watching over us all from Heaven. I know I will see you again someday. I love you.

Your Godmother,

PFC Timothy Vassi said...

Mike was a amazing friend always there when he got the call that a friend was stuck in the mud or needed a friend. he loved his jeep always changing somthaveing or ripping something off i loved him like a brother. Now that i my self PFC Vassi have joined the Marine's i know why its a amazing feeling to know your making a difference love you bro Hoo-Rah Semper-Fi