Plain Dealer Cleveland OH
LANCE CPL. EDWARD AUGUST SCHROEDER II
From EMT to Scout, always a team player
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Rachel Dissell Plain Dealer Reporter
Lance Cpl. Edward August Schroeder II was always part of a team, a pack, a squad.
Schroeder, of Cleveland, whom friends and family called Augie, worked in concert with others: as an emergency medical technician, a lifeguard, a Boy Scout, a church youth counselor and lastly, a Marine.
His mother, Rosemary Palmer, traces the origin of his "team consciousness" to his preschool years, spent with his family in China.
Later, her son was on football, soccer, baseball, lacrosse and swimming teams while growing up in Maplewood, N.J. He wasn't an athlete, but he loved being part of the team.
"Some people are just on that wavelength and that was him," said Palmer, a Collinwood High School teacher.
Palmer also remembered her 23-year-old son as a child of contrasts.
"He was so somber, but he had a sense of fun," she said.
He showed up for a preschool event in which kids were supposed to highlight their heritage wearing a pair of lederhosen. Schroeder pulled up the knickers and greeted attendees by telling them he was a German cousin of television character Steve Urkel. "Did I do thaaat?" he mimicked the character's famous refrain.
His oddball sense of humor extended to a middle school talent show where he performed as a bumbling magician, who, along with his dummy partner, fumbled all his tricks.
He also had what his mother deemed a "Hard Copy" sense of humor when it came to Halloween. One hit costume involved four fingers, a thumb and a T-shirt lettered with L.A. Evidence Room and "one size fits all." He was the bloody glove.
"We always said he was going to be a police officer or a standup comedian. We didn't know which," his mother said.
Schroeder, one of 14 Marines killed Wednesday in a roadside bombing in Iraq, went on to college after high school and family tradition dictated he attend Ohio State University. He studied criminal justice, but was eager to work. He started to think about enlisting after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Palmer objected strenuously to her son joining up, saying she "didn't raise her son to be cannon fodder." He assured her he would never see combat and planned to be a military police officer.
More recently, he would call his father and say "Hey, Pop." He told his father that the closer his unit got to leaving Iraq, the less he thought it was worth being there.
He was supposed to return home in six weeks.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: rdissell(at)plaind.com
(NOTE: The same letter ran in The Oregonian
with the title: A Father's Grief: How do we honor fallen heroes in
Iraq? Page B9 01/04/06)
A Life, Wasted
Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed
By Paul E. Schroeder
Tuesday, January 3, 2006; Page A17
Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."
Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.
At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.
"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."
The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.
This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."
Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.
I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.
In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.
At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.
Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?
I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.
Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.
But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.
This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.
The writer is managing director of a trade development firm in Cleveland.