On that day, Capt. Joseph W. Schultz of Sacremento, Calif.; Sgt. 1st Class Martin R. Apolinar of Phoenix; and Sgt. Aaron J. Blasjo of Riverside, Calif., working out of Special Operations Task Force – East in Afghanistan as part of 3rd Battalion, 3rd SFG (A), were killed when the vehicle in which they were riding was hit by a roadside bomb.
Nearly a month later, after the three men were laid to rest, the group worked to heal from the tragedy of May 29 by honoring the soldiers' lives in a unit memorial at the John F. Kennedy Chapel on Fort Bragg, June 23.
“These men epitomize the values and character of a green beret,” said Lt. Col. Don Franklin, 3rd SFG (A) deputy commander, speaking at the memorial on behalf of Group Commander, Col. Mark C. Schwartz. “[Capt. Schultz] and his teammates fully understood the dangers of combat and willingly placed their lives on the line, operation after operation. They did so because of the bond they had with their fellow teammates, and their commitment to accomplishing the mission they set out to do.”
During the memorial, the fallen soldiers were honored with a roll call, a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps as well as a bagpiper performing “Amazing Grace.”
Personal vignettes were offered by close friends and teammates of each respective soldier.
In speaking of Schultz, one soldier spoke on behalf of one of Schultz' teammates downrange: “[Capt. Schultz] was enthusiastic and eager to take our team through train up as we prepared to deploy. His enthusiasm did not stem from him being a young captain. We joked with him that at 36, he was probably one of the oldest captains in the Army,” the Special Forces soldier said. “What drove him was his belief in what he was doing, and that our country is the greatest on Earth. Capt. Joseph Schultz gave his life leading my team in battle against the enemies of the United States. He represents the best of what this country has to offer, and I am proud to have known him and am honored to have served with him.”
Apolinar's former team sergeant spoke about the type of soldier he was, and what he represented.
The team sergeant said he came back from an Afghanistan tour and met the new guy, Apolinar, shortly after returning.
“Who's this new guy and what is up with his hair?” the team sergeant asked after meeting Apolinar, joking about Apolinar's thick hair which earned him the name “helmet hair” by his teammates.
“Marty turned out to be an extremely impressive weapons sergeant,” the team sergeant went on to say. “He had such an awesome work ethic. You knew if you gave him a mission, you didn't need to look over his shoulder. I'll always love Marty as a brother for the rest of my days. If not for men like Martin R. Apolinar, some of the greatest men to walk this planet, this world would be a worse place. His death is not in vain.”
Speaking on behalf of Blasjo was a former teammate in the multi-purpose canine section, whom Blasjo worked with alongside his canine, “Hunter.”
“He and his canine, Hunter, were destined for great things,” the former teammate said. “Aaron chose to step above and beyond. Aaron's family and friends will always be in our thoughts and prayers. His was a great loss not only to his family and friends, but to our regiment. Rest in peace brother.”
Three photos of the men stood at the forefront of the chapel. Shined boots and M4s fitted with bayonets, dog tags hanging from them, stood a silent tribute to the fallen soldiers.
Slow, somber salutes from service members concluded the ceremony as one-by-one, chapel-goers stopped to pay a final farewell.
USA Patriotism! Note...
Capt. Joseph W. Schultz's military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal with one campaign star; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Overseas Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Combat Infantryman Badge and Parachutists Badge. He also wore the Special Forces Tab and the Ranger Tab.
Sgt. 1st Class Martin R. Apolinar's military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal with one campaign star; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Overseas Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge and Parachutists Badge. He earned the Special Forces Tab and Ranger Tab.
Sgt. Aaron J. Blasjo's military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart; the Army Commendation Medal; the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal; Special Forces Tab; Combat Infantryman Badge; Parachutists Badge.