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Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz
Died January 5, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
34, of Traverse City, Mich.; assigned to 90th Civil Engineer Squadron, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; died Jan. 5 at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell and Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler.
Remains of fallen Michigan airman back in U.S.
The Associated Press
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The remains of a Michigan native killed earlier in the week in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan have been returned to the U.S., the Air Force said.
Officials at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., confirmed that the body of Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz of Traverse City had been flown to Dover Air Force Base, Del.
The 34-year-old and two others died Jan. 5 when an improvised explosive device hit their vehicle in Afghanistan's Helmand province, the Defense Department said.
Schwartz was an explosive ordnance disposal specialist assigned to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
He was a 1996 Traverse City Central High School graduate with 12 years in the Air Force and on his sixth deployment.
Those at Traverse City Central were "saddened by his death" and "proud that he was a Trojan," Principal Rick Vandermolen said.
Schwartz's name is expected to be engraved on a bench in a memorial garden at the school, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.
Also killed in the attack were Senior Airman Bryan Bell, 23, of Erie, Pa., of the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron at Barksdale, and Airman 1st Class Matthew Seidler, 24, of Westminster, Md., of the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
Hundreds turn out for EOD tech's funeral
The Associated Press
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Hundreds of people attended the funeral Saturday of a decorated Michigan airman who was killed in Afghanistan during his sixth deployment to a war zone.
Flags lined streets in Traverse City to honor Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Schwartz, a 1996 graduate of Traverse City Central High School. Even people who didn't know him felt compelled to turn out, and family members said they appreciated the support.
"It's just amazing how this town has responded," Schwartz' grandmother, Pat Bristol, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
A funeral Mass was held at Christ the King Catholic Church in Acme Township. The Rev. Raymond Cotter said the U.S. flag and the cross are powerful symbols, with the flag meaning "you serve something beyond yourself."
Schwartz, 34, and two others were killed Jan. 5 when an improvised explosive device hit their vehicle in Afghanistan's Helmand province. He had been awarded at least three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and a Meritorious Service Medal during his 12 years in the Air Force.
Cotter called the death "such a significant loss to our nation."
Schwartz's family, including wife Jennifer and three daughters, were presented with several flags at the graveside service at Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens. There was an Honor Guard and a 21-gun salute.
"It was just beautiful," said brother-in-law Ken O'Brien
3 EOD techs remembered for altruism, humor
By Jeff Schogol
Richard Bell remembers how his son explained why he became an Air Force explosive ordnance technician: “Dad, I don’t want to kill people, I want to save people.”
Originally, the younger Bell wanted to be a firefighter, like his father, but he found the opportunity to defuse bombs appealed to him, Richard Bell said.
“The last phone conversation I had with him several weeks ago, he was pretty elated that they had taken care of an IED,” the elder Bell said. “So it’s comforting for me to know that he was doing what he wanted to do, and he always told me that.”
The two wouldn’t get a chance to speak again. Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell, 23, was killed Jan. 5 in Afghanistan along with two other EOD technicians: Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz, 34; and Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler, 24. They were killed by a roadside bomb in Shir Ghazay, Helmand province.
Standing more than 6 feet tall and with massive arms, Bryan Bell was a “gentle giant” whose motto was to “live today like there’s no tomorrow,” his father recalled.
“He rarely didn’t smile,” Richard Bell said. “When he came into a room, he lit up a room. The charisma that he had was amazing. I’ve never met anybody with a better outlook towards life. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody that had more charisma than him.”
In addition to clearing bombs overseas, Bryan Bell worked with the Secret Service on at least four occasions to search for possible explosive devices during President Obama’s domestic trips, his father said.
On one such trip, Obama acknowledged his son.
“I remember him telling me in a phone conversation, he says, ‘I just stood by and seen the president walk by and he nodded his head at me … the president knew I was alive,’ ” the elder Bell said.
‘A mentor to everybody’
Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz was on his sixth deployment downrange when he was killed, leaving behind three young daughters.
He and his wife, Jenny, were high school sweethearts. They dated throughout school and got married right after he joined the Air Force.
“He joined the Air Force because he loved his country,” Jenny Schwartz said. “He just thought it was the right thing to do. He felt a lot of pride. He wanted to do a job that was meaningful and it definitely made him happy.”
Her husband was charismatic and full of live, she said. Above all, she remembers his smile.
“He just was very loving,” she said.
Matthew’s brother Luke said Matthew would put his airmen before himself, even if it meant placing himself in danger.
“The biggest thing to me, I’ve just heard countless, countless, countless times, was he would sacrifice his own life for his guys,” Luke Schwartz said. “He would take the risk versus having one of his airmen take that risk.”
Matthew Schwartz epitomized what it meant to be an airman, said Tech. Sgt. David Csizmar, who served with Schwartz at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
“He was a great leader,” Csizmar said. “He was a mentor to everybody, even those who he was lower ranking than.”
Csizmar also recalled one moment that showed just how unflappable Matthew Schwartz was. After an airman jokingly volunteered him to sing the national anthem at an event, Schwartz was called on during formation to sing “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen.
“Without a hitch, Matt just got out of formation, walked up front in front of the entire squadron, snapped to attention, and sang ‘Fat Bottomed Girls,’ and he did a pretty good job,” Csizmar said.
Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler was an “amazing young man,” said his squadron commander, Lt. Col. Mark Donnithorne.
“It takes a special personality to be able to do that mission,” said Donnithorne, head of the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron. “He had determination, the grit, the intensity and energy that’s necessary to succeed in this career field, and he really did display that on a daily basis while training with his flight members — always pushed himself to be the best that he can be, but also pushed his fellow airmen.”
Matthew Seidler stood out as a leader among his peers, Donnithorne said. While learning how to use an EOD robot, he challenged another airman to use the robot to play a game of checkers, testing his skills while making sure his fellow airmen were pushing themselves.
He would also push airmen to their physical limits when they tried to surmount “the incline” — an old railway line that goes about a mile up Pike’s Peak — during physical training.
“He was one of the most fit airmen and so he would always be challenging his counterparts as they almost literally ran up ‘the incline,’ encouraging them in a positive but also in that sort of brotherly chastising way to make sure that they got to the top and didn’t quit along the way,” Donnithorne said.
Growing up, Matthew Seidler took pride in being a smart kid who always finished tests first, his father Marc said.
Marc Seidler was proud when his son decided to join the Air Force.
“He felt that the Air Force was the notch above; that’s why he wanted to get in,” the elder Seidler said.
Lauren Seidler, Matthew’s mother, considers her son a “quiet hero.”
“He didn’t like a lot of attention to himself, but lo and behold, he’s getting it,” she said.