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Veteran laid to rest

Soldier's remains buried 32 years after death

Soldier's remains buried 32 years after death

April 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Thirty-two years ago, the body of Lt. Col. Richard Schott was left in a bunker in South Vietnam after he was killed during a two-day battle between North and South Vietnamese.

Later, the bunker was bulldozed over and the area was turned into a cashew plantation.

After an extensive effort by the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments, Schott's remains eventually were recovered, positively identified and returned to the U.S.

On Wednesday afternoon, those remains were laid to rest in Elmwood Cemetery along W.Va. 480.

Schott was part of a small group of American military advisers helping the South Vietnamese in their battle against the North Vietnamese in Loc Nihn, said his son, Chris Schott. The U.S. Army officer died April 7, 1972, when he was shot in the head during the battle, his son said.

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Richard Schott, a highly regarded officer, had attended the Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army's leadership school, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Chris Schott said.

Funeral services were held at St. Agnes Parish in Shepherdstown and a number of local and state dignitaries attended the service, including Gov. Bob Wise; U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Gen. Allen Tackett, the Adjutant General of West Virginia; Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson and Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss.

At the burial site, Schott received a 21-gun salute, which was followed by a rendition of "Taps." A bagpipe player performed "Amazing Grace."

An American flag which was draped across the casket was folded and presented to Schott's wife, Joan Kartley, of Shepherdstown.

After Schott was killed in Loc Nihn, authorities could not safely enter the site because of unexploded ammunition still in the area, Chris Schott said. Government officials finally recovered part of Schott's body in 1989 and more of his remains in 2000, Chris Schott said.

Schott's dog tags were found with the remains discovered in 1989, and officials used DNA testing to further verify the remains were his father's, Chris Schott said.

The remains were sent to a U.S. government identification lab in Hawaii then brought to the Eastern Panhandle last week, Chris Schott said.

Schott's family invited the public to the funeral and burial services and to a reception held at the Entler Hotel after the services.

People crowded into St. Agnes Parish for the funeral services.

Chris Schott took the podium to remember his father Wednesday, 32 years to the day he died.

Schott said his father was involved in a war which many felt was "better left forgotten." But Richard Schott fought valiantly and the nation forever is indebted to him, Chris Schott said.

"He believed in a dream called America and that's why he was in Vietnam. I'm certain he is looking down on us all and smiling," Chris Schott said.

The Rev. T. Mathew Rowgh, priest of Saint Agnes Parish, said suffering is part of the human condition. Loved ones of those who pass on may grieve over the loss, but it is important to remember that death represents another birth, Rowgh said.

"God has a place for each of us in the kingdom. When we knock on the door of the kingdom, we will be embraced," Rowgh said.

The crowd gathered outside the church after the service and watched the flag-draped casket being placed into a hearse.

A cross-section of people attended the services.

Jerry Williams came even though he did not know Schott.

Williams said he read about Schott's story in a newspaper and decided to attend the funeral.

Williams, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., said he saw combat in the Vietnam War and never has been to a funeral for a war veteran before because "I haven't been able to. It was rather hard."

Joan Kartley, who has remarried, said the service was meaningful to family members.

"Today was absolutely awesome," said Kartley, who owns and operates the Village Finery in Shepherdstown.

Wise ordered flags at all state facilities flown at half-staff Wednesday in honor of Schott.

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