ST. LOUIS – Those who were part of it had never seen anything like it. They hoped the same for the family of fallen Marine Jared Schmitz of Wentzville.
Thousands lined Interstate 70 and every overpass from St. Louis Lambert International Airport to Baue Funeral home in St. Charles to pay their respects Wednesday afternoon.
Schmitz was one of 13 U.S. troops killed in the suicide bombing at the Kabul, Afghanistan airport Aug. 26 giving their lives for the evacuation of fellow Americans and Afghan allies. The 2019 Ft. Zumwalt South graduate was just shy of his 21st birthday.
“I was out cutting grass. My wife told me they were doing this. I said, ‘let’s get in the truck,’” said Ryan Penrose of St. Charles.
He joined nearly 200 others on the First Capitol Drive overpass to await the procession escorting Schmitz’s body to the funeral home.
Pam MacCarthy is a dear friend of Schmitz’s grandmother, DJ.
They are co-workers at Phoenix textiles which provides linens for U.S. military hospitals, at home and abroad. MacCarthy was holding a company flag, hoping her friend would see it.
“This flag means something. Out of the ashes, the Phoenix bird arises,” MacCarthy said. “We’re proud of Jared. We’re proud of DJ’s service to the military. Our whole Phoenix team is very proud of both of them.”
“It really is echoed here today that all of these people would come out and show their gratitude for what their son has done,” St. Charles Fire Capt. Kelly Hunsel said.
She and her coworkers stood on the overpass with a 20-by-30-inch American flag suspended from a ladder truck.
Thousands lined the entire 12-mile route. St. Charles County Police officers stood at attention along the interstate as the procession passed, Hunsel and the firefighters saluted from above.
Paula Tompkins, from Schmitz’s hometown of Wentzville, held a sign with his picture on it.
“I had it in my yard with 13 flags around it,” she said. “Today, I took it out to bring it here.”
“He is in heaven. There has to be no doubt about that. He’s a hero,” Penrose said.
“Maybe looking back in the days and weeks and months to come (his family) can see he really did make a difference and that he was cared about,” Hunsel said.
Wednesday’s visitation was private.
There’s a public visitation set for Saturday, Sept. 11, at Baue Funeral Home at I-70 and Cave Springs from 3-10 p.m.
There will be a private burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.