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A soldier from Vicenza, Italy-based Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment salutes the helmet, rifle, dog tags and boots of Staff Sgt. Michael Schafer, who was killed in action July 25, 2005. Dozens of soldiers from the battalion and other units attached to the base attended Saturday’s ceremony at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan.

A soldier from Vicenza, Italy-based Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment salutes the helmet, rifle, dog tags and boots of Staff Sgt. Michael Schafer, who was killed in action July 25, 2005. Dozens of soldiers from the battalion and other units attached to the base attended Saturday’s ceremony at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. (Jason Chudy/Stars and Stripes)

QALAT, Afghanistan — Staff Sgt. Michael W. Schafer didn’t have to deploy to Afghanistan.

His hearing, it seems, had deteriorated to the point where he was to be discharged from the Army before Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, was to leave.

But Schafer wouldn’t have it.

“He said ‘This is my platoon, these are my guys, these are my brothers,’” explained Schafer’s friend Sgt. Christopher Holbrook.

So, with his brand-new hearing aids in place, Schafer deployed with the Vicenza, Italy-based unit.

“He was one of our brothers, one of the ‘Chosen Few,’” said Company C commander Capt. Eric Gardner during a memorial service for Schafer at Forward Operating Base Lagman.

Dozens of soldiers crowded the base’s dining facility Saturday to pay their respect to a fellow soldier and friend.

Schafer was shot and killed while clearing a house in Oruzgan province July 25. He was the first man in the building — leading from the front — when he was hit.

“He was not a sergeant who just told people what to do,” said the battalion chaplain, Capt. David Schnarr, choking back tears. “He led by example.”

“His actions that day were nothing short of heroic,” said 1st Lt. Timothy O’Neal, Schafer’s platoon leader.

The 25-year-old was awarded the Silver Star Medal for those heroic actions in which he was credited with saving the lives of two of his fellow soldiers.

Schafer had already earned a Bronze Star Medal for the company’s deployment to Iraq in 2003 and early 2004.

But it wasn’t just the tough-as-nails soldier that fellow company members will remember.

They’ll remember that, before deploying to Afghanistan, Schafer visited the family of a Chosen Company soldier who had been killed in Iraq.

They also remember long motorcycle rides through the Italian mountains and frequent plans to go hiking on their weekends off.

“We only went twice, but we had lots of plans,” said Holbrook jokingly.

Finally, they’ll remember a loving husband who was in the process of adopting a child.

And Holbrook said that Schafer’s love for his country was only exceeded by the love for that family.

Schafer had made the hard decision to leave the Army at the end of his enlistment — a decision, Holbrook said, that he felt would be best for his family.

“He was a dedicated family man and loved his country almost to a fault,” Holbrook said.

Schafer, of Spring Hill, Fla., is survived by his wife, Danielle, and parents, Mark Schafer and Karen Barr.


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