Mother of LCpl. Jared Schmitz opens up about grief, loss 1 year after Kabul suicide blast

Schmitz, 20, was killed Aug. 26, 2021 near the Abbey Gate at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan along with 12 other U.S. service members.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 7:28 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- One year after the tragic death of her son, the mother of fallen LCpl. Jared Schmitz is opening up about her journey with grief.

Schmitz, 20, joined the Marine Corps in 2019 after graduating from Fort Zumwalt South High School.

Born in 2001, Schmitz grew up in the Tower Grove South neighborhood and attended several different schools in St. Louis before attending high school in St. Charles County. He attended elementary school at Shaw Visual and Performing Arts School, spent one year at Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School, and finished middle school at Premier Charter School.

“There were two sides to Jared,” his mother, Sue Schmitz, said. “Jared the goofball and Jared the Marine. Because that was the only time he was ever serious is when it came to the Marine Corps.

Schmitz said her son became interested in joining the Marines in elementary school, much to her surprise.

“It was third grade,” Schmitz said, “I went to pick him up from school one day and as we were walking out to the car he says ‘mom, I’m going to join the military when I grow up’ and I thought, where is this coming from?”

But his passion for serving in the military continued through his adolescent life, never straying from the idea.

“I thought he would change his mind a hundred times in the coming years but he never did,” she said. “It was the only thing he ever talked about, he never said he wanted to do anything else with his life.”

Schmitz said after Jared’s junior year in high school, he took her to a recruitment office to sign off on his deferred enlistment, being only 17 at the time.

“Who wouldn’t be terrified as a mother?” she said. “But I guess I’m the kind of person...I don’t choose to go to the dark side immediately. I try to look at the bright side of things.”

After graduating in 2019, Schmitz began the 13-week Marine Corps Recruitment Training at MCRD in San Diego. He went on to graduate in October and was later stationed at Camp Pendleton.

In early 2021, he learned he would deploy to Jordan with the Marine Corps.

“I was so relieved when I found out it was Jordan,” she said. “I’m like, that’s the least scary country in the middle east, I think.”

Schmitz said Jared enjoyed the training in Jordan as well as the food offered to troops.

“He told me, ‘it’s pretty dope, actually,’” she said with a smile.

But as news of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan began making headlines, she grew concerned for her son and the likelihood of him being called in for help.

Then, on August 14, 2021, Jared asked to FaceTime.

“The first thing he said was ‘mom, I have to go to the worst place in the world’ and I said ‘Afghanistan?’” she said. “He said, ‘yeah,’ and oh God, my heart sank.”

She remembers trying to be encouraging while beginning to worry back at home.

“The last thing he said is ‘mom, they have suicide bombers over there,’” she recalled. “So that conversation makes me sick to my stomach every time I think about it.”

It would be the last time the two would communicate face-to-face, as much of their conversations then turned to text messages.

He arrived in Kabul on August 19 and for several days, Schmitz said she didn’t hear from her son. Three or four days later, she said, he replied, indicating he had been on post for several days straight and was tired.

On August 26, seven days after arriving in Kabul, news of a bomb blast outside the airport was plastered across American television. She anxiously texted Jared hoping for a response.

“I said please, like begging him, please answer us and he never responded,” she said. “Then my sister called me that afternoon and said ‘have you heard from Jared’ and something about her asking me that gave me a horrible feeling and I said ‘no, but I’ll have a text in the morning,’ but I didn’t.”

Instead, Schmitz said she was woken up by what she thought was someone trying to break into her house. What it turned out to be was far worse.

“I pulled the curtains over and all I could see was the silhouette of the uniform and I immediately fell to the floor like this is not happening,” she said. “I crawled to the door and opened it a little bit and said ‘Is he gone?’ And they just both nodded.”

The next few days were a blur, Schmitz said. Until, she said, she found a moment of clarity when it came time to bring Jared’s body home.

“That day, wow,” she said. “I don’t even have words for that. I can’t even say how grateful [we are.] I wish I could thank each and every person that was out there but there’s no way.”

Jared received a Purple Heart, along with several other decorations and medals for his sacrifice. Schmitz said she’s gained friends through the experience, although she despises the circumstances.

“I’m friends with a couple other women who are moms to some of the others that were killed,” she said. “We help each other so much, without them I would be lost.”

Schmitz said she’s looking forward to becoming a grandmother this fall as her oldest son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child.

“They will grow up knowing so much about their Uncle Jared they’ll probably get sick of hearing about him,” she said. “The world needs more good people in it and that’s what it’s missing, a genuine good person who would do anything for anyone.”