Three primary themes related to Staff Sgt. Rex Schad’s life developed during Thursday’s service at LifeChurch in Edmond: He personified the military trinity of God, country and family.
Members of his family, brothers in arms and friends gathered to celebrate the life of a soldier killed in action on March 11 in Afghanistan. He symbolized a growing number of Oklahomans and Edmond residents who have died defending freedom.
Schad was born to Rex and Colleen (Whipple) Schad on Jan. 29, 1987, at Naval Air Station in Lemoore, Calif. He was deployed in November on election day and was on his second tour in Afghanistan. Schad was killed while conducting a patrol brief with the Afghan National Police west of Kabul in the Jalrez District.
During Thursday’s service, he was remembered by 1st Lt. David Swanson, his uncle Peter Whipple, his girlfriend Ana Sabrina Carmona, family friend George Johnson and his grandfather Harold Whipple. Schad also received several military awards posthumously.
Swanson said he was privileged to have been Schad’s platoon leader. When he first encountered Rex they were quick to establish an Oklahoma connection.
“He was equally quick to let me know that I was a rookie lieutenant in his platoon,” Swanson said.
Swanson said it didn’t take long for him to bond with the platoon and with the squad leaders — especially with Schad — at Fort Stewart, located near Savannah, Ga. Swanson graduated from Yukon High School in 2006; Schad graduated from Edmond Memorial High School in 2005. Both enlisted shortly after high school, both in infantry. Both were marathon runners. Both were passionate and competent leaders of men. Both wore their hearts on their sleeves, he said.
Schad was good at light infantry tactics and missions, Swanson said. He was the top squad leader in Alpha Company.
“Rex was an absolute rock star in his chosen profession,” Swanson said.
From the moment they met, Schad was all about motivating and molding those around him, Swanson said. He left a mark on all of them, and they are better for it and for having known him. They loved him and he loved them.
Swanson said Schad would have accomplished all he set out to do, and spoke of his potential in the present tense. He described Schad as ranger-hearted, and they planned on joining special forces together. Schad also considered college and a return to the Army as an officer.
They talked about the girl he had started dating, Sabrina.
“Sabrina centered Rex and brought much joy into his life,” Swanson said.
Schad and Sabrina were planning on getting married and spending the rest of their lives together.
Carmona spoke to members of Schad’s family and thanked them for raising an honorable, brave and funny man. They also gave him a sense of style, arrogance and good looks, she quipped. She put some words for him in the form of a letter, which she read.
“My dear Rex, You gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect who you love and you became a hero,” she began. “You have become our protector, an angel now. We had plans and dreams that will never be lived — to marry and have children, to have a life of pure love, laughter and happiness. But there has been a change of plans. I need you to know that it will be OK as strength is on my side as I know you wouldn’t have it any other way. Rex, you left me with so many beautiful memories and you changed my life. You taught me the greatest lesson I will ever learn, and you taught me about love.”
Peter Whipple called his nephew a great American hero and said he would want them to celebrate the memory of his life. He said he knew that because of his faith in Jesus he is in heaven, where he will one day be reunited with fellow believers. And he was a wonderful young man.
Johnson said he knew Schad through his mother’s service at the state Capitol. He spoke about how the soldier lived John 15:13 — “Greater love has no one than this: To lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Schad had the patriotism it takes to make the ultimate sacrifice, Johnson said.
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