A giant cross made to honor the life of fallen San Antonio Marine Lance Cpl. Benjamin Schmidt arrived at his family’s home Thursday afternoon thanks to the help of strangers.
The cross was never intended to be there, though.
Lance Cpl. Schmidt was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan on October 2011. Members of his own platoon made the cross in Schmidt’s memory and planned to have it stand on top of Old Smoky, a mountain at Camp Pendleton where Schmidt was based.
The Marine Corps, however, would not allow it because of a moratorium put in place on all religious symbols on base.
“We were all furious and upset and just didn’t understand,” said Cpl. Jeremy Laster, who served in Schmidt’s platoon.
When word got out about the cross, strangers pitched in to help. The UPS store in San Diego coordinated with UPS in San Antonio to ship the cross in a specially-made box at no charge.
It arrived at a freight warehouse in San Antonio earlier this week and was brought to the UPS store in Alamo Heights Thursday afternoon. From there, it was loaded onto a trailer and driven to the Schmidt home.
“To think that a group of guys and gals at the UPS store in San Diego who didn’t know Benjamin from Adam and didn’t know our family,” said David Schmidt, Benjamin’s father. "To package this thing the way they did -- the world is full of good people.”
The journey isn’t quite over for the cross. It will be permanently placed on the Schmidt's ranch in Gillespie County just in time to mark the one year anniversary of Benjamin's death.
“It seems like it’s been 10 years,” said Schmidt’s father. “Other times it seems like it’s been 10 days."
The cross will be moved on Sunday after Benjamin is honored during a football game at Fort Worth's Texas Christian University where he attended school.
Family starts TCU professorship
Meanwhile, the Schmidt family is creating an endowed professorship at TCU to honor his love of history.
Benjamin Schmidt dreamed of earning his doctorate in history from TCU and becoming a professor.
So his father, David Schmidt, who is the San Antonio Spurs' team doctor, and his father's wife Teresa are giving $100,000 to the school to create the Lance Cpl. Benjamin Whetstone Schmidt Endowed Professorship in History.
The couple will also lead an effort to raise a total of $1 million for the professorship.
"Benjamin was a special individual," David Schmidt said. "He was 24 years old (and) fixing to go to battle in Afghanistan."
David Schmidt said that not many kids his son's age would leave half of their life insurance policy to endow a scholarship.
"We're honored to do something like this for TCU because he loved that place," Schmidt said.
Schmidt says his son went to TCU for three semesters before joining the Marines and wanted to ultimately return to school to become a history professor.
To donate to the endowment, you can donate online at www.makeagift.tcu.edu and designate it to the Benjamin W, Schmidt Professorship or send it to:
LCpl Benjamin W. Schmidt Professorship, Office of University Development, Texas Christian University, TCU Box 297044, Fort Worth Texas, 76129