"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me; As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on." - Julie Ward Howe, the last verse of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
I have been mulling this one over for awhile now....words are so very inadequate to express the immense sorrow of the loss of an American hero, patriot, and friend.
Major Mathew Schram was killed in an ambush in Iraq on Memorial Day. He was a good man, from Brookfield, Wisconsin, who always believed the best about everyone. I worked closely with him, trained with him, and lived next door to him - we were friends. I am going to include some quotes from various articles and family members, then talk about Mat.
- From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
Phil Schram of Hartland said his brother had visited Wisconsin over Christmas. The family knew then war was likely. Mathew Schram had been involved in the first Persian Gulf War and, later, in Somalia.
“He was anxious to get over there and get to work. He loved the military. He loved the structure. He loved serving under George W. (Bush),” Phil Schram said.
“We got an e-mail from him last Saturday. He would tell us, not about where he was, but about his concern for the men he led. He assured us everything was OK and he was fine.”
“He wanted to help people as best he could, and he did that by bettering himself and serving his country,” Phil Schram said. “He wanted to liberate (Iraq). He was proud of what he did, and naturally we’re all very proud of him.”
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Father Daniel Pakenham called Schram a man of "great eloquence" and fellow soldiers described him as a "man of character" and a perfect soldier.
"Today, we remember that the death of one we love is an incredible personal loss. But Mat's death reminds us, too, that there are bigger things in the world we live in and there are things we are willing to give our lives for," Pakenham said.
He described Schram as a man who "lived by his values - with fidelity, with strength, with perseverance - to the extent that he would give his life."
In one letter to a nephew dated May 15, Schram said he had been in Iraq since April 25 after spending three weeks in Kuwait.
"When we crossed the border of Kuwait into Iraq, starving children put their hands up to their mouths begging for food," Schram wrote. "We didn't throw them food or else they'll run in the street - we might run them over. Most of the kids give us the thumbs-up as we drive by."
Schram, who was with the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, also told of how at one point "hostile Iraqis" had fired shots near him and his fellow soldiers.
When Schram was killed in an attack on Memorial Day, he was out front with his convoy, a position that he could have delegated to someone else.
But Army Maj. Casimir Carey, who was in the ROTC with Schram and his roommate at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, said he wasn't surprised Schram was out front.
"He would never ask his soldiers to do anything he would not do," said Carey, now an instructor at West Point. "He loved leading soldiers. He is probably the best officer I've met in my career."
"Major Mathew Schram, you are now a part of our heritage," said Lt. Col. James Ellison, chaplain at Fort Carson. "You are what America is, a great nation freely giving of itself for others. We respect you. We salute you."
Earl Schram said the service and the words from Pakenham and Army officials helped console his family.
But he said, "Mat might have been a little embarrassed at all the attention he got. He's kind of a modest man."
From the Colodrado Springs Gazette:
Spc. Amanda O’Brien said she lost a great friend and mentor.
"It’s still shocking that a man I admire so much, I won’t be able to see again," she said.
O’Brien worked as Schram’s assistant for about a year. She said she remembers his generosity the most. Before he left for Iraq, Schram gave her a basket of baby supplies for her newborn son.
In honor of him, O’Brien plans to make a scrapbook filled with newspaper articles and photos for Schram’s family and for her 4-month-old son.
"I don’t ever want his memory to be forgotten," she said.
The above says it all about Mat who was also our "Schrambo". He definitely would be embarassed by the attention of this and would not want me to write about him. At the time I was with him, he was the best of the soldiers, the validictorian of our training class, and he was the most approachable and genuinely humble man I have ever met - a rare combination of traits for a soldier.
We were as close as a Green Bay Packers Fan and Chicago Bears Fan could possibly be...meaning that we were friends as long as we didn't talk about football! In an Army largely dominated by southerners, we midwesterners tended to stick together. In the military, growing up 90 miles apart meant that we were neighbors. For instance, I would understand and commiserate with Mat about the lack of (good) bratwurst in Virginia - good thing we both eventually ended up in Germany!
Over the last few weeks, when I talked with the other guys that knew Mat, one thing always was said. "Oh no, not him, not Mat." Major Mat Schram was the BEST that this country has to offer. He always wanted to contribute, to help, to do his part, to save the world. And our world most desperately needs people like Mat Schram. He made us want to be better people, better soldiers, better men. He didn't just set the example - Mathew Schram was the example. It is difficult for me even to continue to write about him but, suffice it to say, Mat was a very positive influence on me, and I will never forget him. Nor will any who knew him...
He more than lived up to the title "American Fighting Man".
Please, keep your thoughts and prayers with the Schram family. We will never be able to repay our debt to them.