VFW honors first Avon soldier killed in Vietnam War
Filed on November 10, 2014 by Evan Goodenow
AVON -- "Happy Valentine's Day," Marines from Cpl. David Schneider"s squad of the 9th Regiment, 3rd Division whispered to one another on Feb. 14, 1968.
It was a little gallows humor as they prepared to move out before dawn on patrol from Ca Lu, Vietnam, on what would be the last day of Schneider"s life. The 21-year-old Schneider, the first Avon resident killed in the Vietnam War, had a memorial dedicated to him Sunday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7035, which is named for him.
Eight Schneider family members were among the 200 people on hand for the dedication of the memorial, which includes a stone engraved with Schneider"s name, a 30-yard brick walkway lined with American flags, two flagpoles and four benches. About $17,000 was raised through donations and raffles to pay for the memorial, said Don Kavalac, post quartermaster.
Relatives remembered Schneider, who had worked at a gas station and as a greenskeeper at a golf course, as a fun-loving young man and prankster as a teenager. But they said Schneider, a 1965 Avon High School graduate, took the Marines seriously.
"He was just this 21-year-old guy who went off to war," Schneider"s sister, Chris Alten, told the crowd. "Handsome and great fun."
The Rev. David Woolsey, pastor of Avon"s Faith Lutheran Church, paraphrased Abraham Lincoln"s Gettysburg Address, saying the sacrifices of America"s war dead like Schneider are "far above our poor power to add or detract." Woolsey said Schneider"s memorial is far smaller and less well known than the Gettysburg or Arlington memorials, but just as significant ...
Schneider, who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in October 1967, was killed during the Tet Offensive -- Tet is the name of the Vietnamese New Year, which begins Jan. 30 -- a massive North Vietnamese counterattack.
Schneider was among 58,000 Americans -- 98 from Lorain County -- and up to 3.8 million Vietnamese killed in the war.
Alten said the Defense Department provided few details about her brother"s death. It wasn't until 1993 that the family received a detailed account in a letter from Schneider's fellow Marine, Richard Foster Jr., then a lawyer in Kenedy, Texas, about an hour from San Antonio.
Alten said the 16-page letter to Schneider"s mother, Martha Schneider, was cathartic for the family. It detailed not only the circumstances of Schneider"s death, but the content of his character ...
Because of his maturity, Schneider frequently served as squad leader. Foster said some officers had big egos and short tempers, but not Schneider. He said Schneider was likely to roll his eyes and suppress a grin when squad members complained or committed practical jokes.
"Dave was one of the very few leaders who led without creating a chasm between himself and his subordinates," Foster wrote. "He was not just a leader, but also a friend. Very seldom did the two go together."
On Valentine"s Day 1968, Foster wrote that the Marines departed Ca Lu in Quang Tri Province where the battle of Khe Sanh, one of the bloodiest battles of the war, was raging. Their objective was to destroy a North Vietnamese Army post that had mortared them on two earlier patrols.
They were climbing a mountain about 1 p.m. that would later be named Valentine"s Ridge. The lead squad was about 50 yards from the top of the mountain when a machine gun burst killed the point man for their company. Schneider began directing a sweeping movement to the left of Foster in terrain that included scattered brush and multiple tree trunks.
"A few short, quiet steps later, a huge explosion occurred on my immediate left, blowing me several feet away and slamming me to the ground," Foster wrote. "Dave died at that instant."
Schneider was one of seven men killed in his platoon, according to his obituary. The story said Schneider was killed by mortar fire, but Foster is convinced he stepped on a mine ...
Shortly after learning of her son's death, Martha Schneider wrote him an open letter published in The Lorain Journal. She wrote lovingly of the "complete chaos" his last leave had caused the family and of her sadness and pride.
"I pray that the supreme sacrifice you made was not in vain -- that in some way it will bring world peace a bit closer to reality," Martha Schneider wrote. "Dave, I had to write one more letter to tell you how it is without you. I've got to get busy now with my daily routine. No more anxiety about you over there in Vietnam. Just an aching heart."
Contact Evan Goodenow at email@example.com
[Photos available at The Chronicle-Telegram:]
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7035 Junior Vice Commander Dale Hulka, left, and Ladies Auxiliary President Laura Andrews raise the American flag during the dedication of a memorial to honor veterans in Avon on Sunday [11=9-14]
Chris Alten, sister of David F. Schneider who died in the line of duty in Vietnam, talks about her brother during the dedication of a memorial to honor all Veterans at the Avon/Avon Lake VFW
Dale Hulka, Junior Vice Commander of VFW Post 7035, unveils an engraved rock in memory of David F. Schneider, Avon's first soldier lost in the Vietnam War, during the dedication of a Veteran
Siblings and family of David F. Scheneider, front, listen to speakers during the dedication of a Veterans memorial at the Avon/Avon Lake "David F. Scheneider" Post 7035 Sunday afternoon
Rob Orient, Post Officer of the Day and Judge Advocate for VFW Post 7035, pays his respect to David F. Schneider and all Veterans during the dedication of the memorial at the Avon/Avon Lake
Avon Mayor Brian Jensen shares a few words during the dedication of a memorial to honor all Veterans at the Avon/Avon Lake VFW "David F. Schneider" Post 7035 Sunday afternoon