JUSTIN BRYAN SCHMIDT
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Spec 4
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Home Town: Bradenton, Florida and Alida, MN
1. Justin Schmidt 2. Justin Schmidt’s headstone at Arlington
Justin Bryan Schmidt was born May 13, 1980 at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida to parents Victor Owen and Lenore Claire Roberts Schmidt. Victor was a Florida native and Lenore a Minnesotan when they met and married in Florida on March 17, 1978. Justin had one brother, Jason.
Justin attended Daughtrey Elementary School, Harllee Middle School and Bayshore High School in Bradenton before transferring to Manatee High School in the same city. He was on the wrestling team and also participated in JROTC as a cadet. He learned to swim at an early age, played the drums and loved being outdoors. He graduated from Manatee High School in 1998. His parents were divorced in March of 1997 and his mother returned to Minnesota, where she lived in the Alida area of Clearwater County.
Justin’s grandfather, retired Air Force Lt. Col. John N. Schmidt of Bradenton had served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was highly decorated. Justin’s dad Victor had served about seven years in the Air Force and had been named MacDill’s Airman of the Year in 1976. Justin was deeply affected by the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, plus he wanted to carry on the family tradition when he enlisted in the Army on February 13, 2002. He re-enlisted in early 2004 and planned to make the military his career.
Justin was assigned to the Army’s C Battery, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division based in Baumholder, Germany. He fell in love with a woman he met in Germany, Stephanie Kohler, and planned to get married May 19th, 2004 in Germany. He postponed the wedding, however, when he found out four days before his tour was scheduled to end that his stay in Iraq would be extended for another three months.
The wedding was not to be, however. On April 29, 2004, Spec 4 Schmidt was part of a dismounted IED (improvised explosive device) sweep patrol in Baghdad when his unit was approached by a vehicle. The driver of the vehicle detonated a bomb, killing eight soldiers from Justin’s unit. Justin’s family was notified by telephone of his death the day he died, followed by a visit in person from a representative of the Army.
A memorial service was held at Kirkwood Prebsyterian Church in Bradenton attended by hundreds of friends and supporters. Justin’s gold-framed photo sat beside a folded American flag and was surrounded by flowers.
Funeral services were held May 14, 2004 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia where Justin was laid to rest. His headstone notes that he was the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Spec 4 Justin B Schmidt was 25 years old.