Sergeant Joshua Schmit was supposed to be with friends and family in Willmar today, catching up after a tour of duty in Iraq.
Instead, those who love him are gathered to bid Schmit farewell after he was killed by a roadside bomb ten days before his tour was to end.
Packed in the civic center where Schmit once played hockey, much of Willmar remembered him as their hometown hero, and as the 58th Minnesotan to die at war in Iraq.
"There is a hush that has once again come over Minnesota," Chaplain Dean Johnson said.
And especially over Willmar, where Schmit finished high school in 1999, and where he's remembered as fiesty and friendly, the newspaper delivery boy who on his route picked flowers for his mom. Family and friends shared pages of memories today, and former teammates recalled how Schmit's constant pranks boosted their morale.
"At a high school hockey game he had gone over to the opposing team's fan section and danced in front of them with his shirt off and some writing on his chest," said Schmit's friend Nick Clark. "He later found out the principal frowned upon that."
"The way he laughed and giggled and chuckled...he was just a truly wonderful friend," Troy Feeken said.
And a wonderful soldier, honored today with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Yet with just 10 days left in Iraq, Josh was looking beyond the military, telling his Grandma in a recent e-mail how he and his wife of just a year planned to travel the world, then move to Boston for chef school.
"I am so excited to move on with mine and Andrea's lives instead of standing still," said Schmit's uncle Steve Dolce, reading Schmit's e-mail. "We have money in the bank and so many dreams to live out."
"May God bless the memory of Joshua Schmit," Johnson said. "A member of the United States Army who gave his all, who gave his life for our country."
Joshua Schmit's father, Greg, flew with his son's body back to Willmar.
Greg is in the Minnesota National Guard, and is scheduled to leave for Iraq next month.
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)