February 2, 2008
WAPAKONETA — Army Sgt. Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III loved to make people laugh. And he was certainly good at it.He was the guy you wanted to be friends with; the guy you wanted in your unit when fighting a dangerous war in Iraq.“Sgt. Mike Schoolcraft was the kind of soldier every commander wants on his team,” Brig. Gen. Keith Macnamara said Saturday during services for the slain soldier. “He was experienced. He was fearlessly dedicated. He was motivated and he had a deep-seated character.”Hundreds came to Wapakoneta High School Saturday to honor and say goodbye to the 2001 Wapakoneta and Apollo Career Center graduate. Many arrived early holding American flags and lining the road as Schoolcraft returned to his school one last time.Many used the word “patriot” when speaking of Schoolcraft, killed Jan 18 from wounds he suffered when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Taji, Iraq.Among the mourners were veterans, active military personnel, and several family and friends wearing T-shirts donning Schoolcraft’s picture and the words “Our Fallen Hero.”Both military and sacred elements were scattered throughout the service, a request from the soldier who knew he would be in harm’s way when leaving for Iraq. He was on his second tour of duty there, leaving for that tour soon after marrying Amber Van Weort in November.“Mike willingly put on the uniform and took his place in a long succession of patriots who have put their country and their family ahead of their personal safety,” the Rev. Greg Roberts said.Schoolcraft, 26, was remembered for his sense of humor, outgoing personality and “killer smile.” Roberts said his smile endeared him to all he met, including those who served with him. Services held in Iraq and at his base in Hawaii showed it, he said.Macnamara shared comments from some of those soldiers; comments highlighting both Schoolcraft’s funny side and his commitment to serving his country.“Mike Schoolcraft was a great guy. He could find a way to make any situation comical with his crazy antics no matter how bad it was,” he read.Another joked that he was “by far the most talkative” of the unit, adding that he talked so much because he cared so much for others.“A gentle work hound” one person wrote. “Because he always had a smile and accomplished his missions with immense energy and pride.”Macnamara presented Schoolcraft’s wife and parents with the Bronze Medal, Purple Heart and Iraq Campaign Medal. He was promoted to sergeant after his death.“It was clear that he was a hero to his superiors and fellow soldiers,” Macnamara said. “Back here he is also a hero.”As important as the medals are, Roberts said Schoolcraft’s real legacy was his love for his family and friends.“The love he had for each of you is deeply imbedded and will never go away,” he said. “The memories of time spent together, some preserved in photographs and others etched in your minds, are forever yours.”Even before the service began, mourners saw glimpses of Schoolcraft’s life. A slide show played outside the gymnasium. Photographs and Schoolcraft’s military honors were also on display.The smile so often talked about was clearly seen in childhood photos, as well as a photo of Schoolcraft in uniform posing with what appeared to be Iraqi children. Other photos showed him with his family. One showed him fishing, while many proved that he indeed loved his tattoos.As bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and mourners stood with their hands over their hearts, Schoolcraft’s American flag-draped coffin was taken from the gymnasium.Outside, onlookers stood along the road, some in small groups and others alone, all holding flags as the procession passed taking Schoolcraft to Buckland Cemetery.