Last updated: August 24. 2013 6:58PM - 388 Views

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LIMA — Army Spc. Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III had a smile that stood out as one of a kind, like his trademark.Friends, family and people close to the 26-year-old graduate of Wapakoneta High School and Apollo Career Center, also described him as a good man, a stand-out student with a lot of talent, and a person who was dedicated to what he did.His mother, Cynthia Schoolcraft Hooker, of Lima, said he had a bright life ahead of him, full of promise.He loved children, she said, and he wanted to start a family when he returned from service in the U.S. Army.Unfortunately, Schoolcraft will not have a chance to start a family, nor fulfill all of the promise he possessed.On Monday, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed Schoolcraft died Saturday supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, near Taji, Iraq, from wounds he suffered when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Taji is about 20 miles north of Baghdad.Schoolcraft’s mother broke into tears as she spoke of her son Monday afternoon. Although she suffers from multiple sclerosis, she maintained composure, she said, as best as she could and laughed at the good memories she has of her son.The yellow ribbon wrapped around a tree in her front yard in Lima indicates she was waiting for him to return home from the war.“I told him he was too beautiful to go into the Army,” she said, smiling. “It’s a tragedy. … He’d planned to come home, which he promised to do since he enlisted.”Schoolcraft’s only sibling, his sister, Megan, 24, sat beside their mother, holding her 11-month-old daughter, Kaylen, and said the three of them were always very close.“He was always the man,” she said. “He never had an enemy. He got along with everybody.”The family said Schoolcraft excelled in every extracurricular activity he could possibly participate in, including wrestling, football, track and baseball.His coaches and teachers agreed.Darrell Jones was Schoolcraft’s assistant football coach in high school. He said they lost touch after he enlisted.“He was a solid person,” said Jones, now an assistant coach at Perry High School. “He was a very reliable, dependable, hard worker — the kind of kid that gave it 100 percent. ‘Enthusiasm’ is the first word that comes to mind. He approached things with a lot of enthusiasm.”Hooker said she her son was on a dangerous daytime mission when he died.“I’d been trying to talk him out of it for years, as moms do. … I actually went through some of his pictures the other day. There are all kinds of pictures of him with kids.”Cynthia Schoolcraft said her son was recently married and he’d planned a long life with his wife, Amber Van Weort Schoolcraft, who he married in November in Wapakoneta.“He loved his family very much,” Hooker said, sitting next to her husband, Randy Hooker, and his parents, Dan and Sue Hooker, of Lima. “He liked to kid around, and he was a good person and a good soldier. … From what I understand, his actions allowed others to survive and return home to their families. They told me he will receive the Purple Heart.”Schoolcraft’s family said he spent his junior and senior years studying auto body repair at the Apollo Career Center.“He had a smile that was very noticeable,” said Nick Earl, dean of students. “He stood out as a good student.”As news of Schoolcraft’s death spread through the community, officials at Wapakoneta City Council mentioned his death during its regular session Monday night.Daniel Graf, 4th Ward councilman, asked that the city contact Schoolcraft’s family and express its condolences while thanking them for his sacrifice.Chris Pfister, superintendent of Apollo Career Center, said Schoolcraft was the second student at the school to die in Iraq in recent months.When Christian Neff, a tank driver in the Army, died this past fall the school had a special memorial service for him at its Veterans Memorial Gardens, where they planted a tree.“My thinking is we will do the same for this student,” Pfister said. “It’s just very, very sad we’re losing these young people in this war. Here again, we’ve lost another young person.”Schoolcraft’s family said Monday evening they expect to have a special public service for him when he returns.Funeral arrangements were pending Monday at Bayliff & Son Funeral Home in Cridersville.Schoolcraft’s mom said her son went into the military shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, because he “wanted to protect everyone he loved in the U.S., to keep them safe.”This was his second tour in Iraq.“He always found a reason to make others smile,” Hooker said. “He had a killer smile that warmed your heart.”

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