Fallen Willmar soldier was 10 days away from homeby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Army Sgt. Joshua Schmit's Humvee had hit roadside bombs three times since last May and he'd escaped without injury. Schmit's luck ended Saturday, when the Humvee he was commanding hit another bomb in Iraq.
Willmar, Minn. — Joshua Schmit is the 50th person with ties to Minnesota to die in combat in Iraq. He was a U.S. Army truck commander with a transportation security unit. The Army has released few details about his death so far, including the location of the bomb attack.
Schmit, 26, served with the Army in Iraq since May 2006. This was the fourth time a vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb. The first three times he escaped without injury. This time, he wasn't so lucky. Schmit was just 10 days away from leaving Iraq for good.
"He was actually going to be done -- discharged. He would be all done," his father, Greg Schmit, said.
Schmit says the family was looking forward to his discharge. They were planning a big party.
"We talked to him on Easter Sunday. We were kind of hoping it would work out for a welcome home party and a going away party for myself because I'm in the military myself and I'm being deployed," Schmit said.
The older Schmit will deploy to Iraq with his Minnesota National Guard unit on May 14. The Schmit family has a tradition of military service. Joshua Schmit's grandfather served in the Army, Greg Schmit has served as a sergeant in the Guard for 12 years. Joshua enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard after graduating from Willmar High School in 1999. In 2001, he switched to the Army and was assigned to a unit based in Germany. That was where Schmit met his wife, Andrea, who he married in 2005.
Councilmember Steve Gardner, who represents Willmar's Ward 2, has known the Schmit family for at least 15 years. Gardner's son-in-law is also currently serving in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.
"We could be in that position at any time and it's just so painful to know that they have to go through that. Your heart just goes out to these folks because they're just wonderful people," according to Gardner.
This is the second Iraq war death Willmar has suffered. In July of last year, Sgt. Kyle Miller was killed there. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery Unit.
"When these deaths happen it's really a deep wound for the whole community because of the fact that people know each other a lot closer in rural towns," Willmar Mayor Lester Heitke said.
The community has been giving the Schmit family a lot of support. Dean Johnson, the former DFL senator, served as a National Guard chaplain for many years. He visited with the Schmit family Sunday morning.
"It doesn't matter how big the town, how big the church or how little," Johnson said. "People just definitely feel it. You hear it over and over: 'The war has come to our town again.'"
In addition to his father and wife, Joshua leaves his mother and sister. The family says Joshua Schmit was a huge sports fan. He played varsity football in high school and was on the Willmar traveling hockey league for a number of years. After his discharge this summer, Greg was planning on going to culinary school.
"He was a very loving and caring person, very sensitive," his father said. "He loved to hunt and fish. He loved sports. He's going to be missed ... a lot."
As of Sunday evening, the family was still waiting for details about when Joshua's body would be shipped home. The family expects the funeral service to be held sometime next week.
- Morning Edition, 04/16/2007, 7:55 a.m.