ST. LOUIS ( -- The alma mater of fallen Marine LCpl. Jared Schmitz is honoring his sacrifice through a long standing senior class tradition.

The class of 2022 were freshmen when Schmitz was a senior at Fort Zumwalt South High School in O'Fallon. As a result, many remember passing him in the hallway and speaking to him on occasion. 

"We saw each other at school. I actually talked to the guy, he was a great guy he knew everybody and was always sweet to everyone," said Jay Higgins. "I'm so incredibly grateful for what he's done for us."

When news about his death in Afghanistan made its way back to the high school, the seniors said they were shocked, saddened and ultimately knew they needed to do something.

"It really means a lot because it puts it into perspective, that, holy crap this guy just died for us to sit here at high school and we're going to complain about homework and stuff and he's over there fighting in a war for us," said Libby Bishop.

So, the seniors decided to dedicate their senior class t-shirt to Schmitz. In a normal year, the shirts are fun or silly and proceeds go toward events like prom. But this year, the seniors decided to do something different.

"I wanted to do something that was beyond just a post on social media and something that got the whole school involved," said Bishop.

When news about Jared Schmitz's death in Afghanistan made its way back to the high school, the seniors said they were shocked, saddened and ultimately knew they needed to do something.

The seniors designed the t-shirt, which is black and has Schmitz's name and title on the front. On the back it reads, "Once a bulldog, always a bulldog" followed by Semper Fi.

"I'm really proud to be able to say he was a former classmate of mine and that we are able to celebrate him like we are now," said Emmy Watson. "Because once you're a bulldog, you're always a bulldog like the shirt says."

The class decided 100 percent of the proceeds from the shirts will go toward Schmitz's memorial fund, which is designed to help military families in the future.

"We're extremely proud of him, everything he's done, he's sacrificed everything he could for his country and it's just really great he was part of here before and went on to be such an amazing person," said Sophia Ung.

T-shirts are currently on sale and orders will be accepted through Sunday night. To order a t-shirt, click here.

"The day or the day after he died my brother called, he was in the marines too, and I think he had graduated the year before Jared, he had passed by him a few times and he knew him and like, it was already a big deal but I think that brought it just that much closer to home," said Nick Stovall.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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