Michael Schafer
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Sending a Message of Sacrifice (News Article in Hernando Today 8/31/06)  
Sending a message of sacrifice
By TONY MARRERO lmarrero@hernandotoday.com
Published: Aug 30, 2006

SPRING HILL — U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Schafer loved being the center of attention.   But this time, family members said, he would have wanted to share the honor.

“I know in my heart that Mike would say, ‘Even though my name is on the building, this is for all the troops, veterans and fallen brothers,’” Daniel Barr, Schafer’s stepfather, told a group gathered at the Spring Hill Post Office’s main branch Wednesday.

Schafer’s family, friends and well-wishers gathered as officials dedicated the building in honor of Schafer, who was killed July 25, 2005 while serving in Afghanistan.

The Springstead High School graduate was 25 years old when he died.

A light rain from Tropical Storm Ernesto forced the event inside to the facility’s vast sorting room, where post office employees in bright red shirts paused to watch the ceremony.

Schafer made “the ultimate sacrifice for his country,” said Michael Jordan, manager of the United States Postal Service’s Suncoast District. “I’m very proud this facility will be renamed in a historic tribute to Michael.”

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, sponsored legislation last year to have the post office at 8501 Philatelic Drive named after Schafer.

“In times when children and families in America need role models to look up to and to emulate, Sgt. Schafer was a true American hero,” Brown-Waite said. “I can only hope that as family and friends can gain some solace knowing that his brave actions fighting for freedom will be immortalized.”

“Dedicating this federal building in remembering (Schafer’s) history and his story,” said James Bradley, president of the Florida Chapter of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Association. “Because of his sacrifices, there are fewer terrorists to threaten Americans today.”

“To Michael, we say rest easy in the knowledge that you made a difference, not just to one person but to the whole nation.”

The family helped pull off a black cloth covering the plaque that will hang in the post office lobby: “This building is named in honor of Sgt. Michael Schafer by an act of Congress, Public Law 109-194, March 20, 2006.”

Born in Illinois, Schafer grew up in Spring Hill not far from the main post office branch. He played Little League baseball at Delta Woods Park on Deltona Boulevard.

Schafer graduated from Springstead in 1998, enlisted in 1999 and worked his way up to team leader for the Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion 503rd Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

He was one of the first paratroopers to parachute in to Kirkuk, Iraq in 2003.

“He wanted to do something for his country,” Schafer’s wife, Danielle, said after the ceremony. “He wanted to be a part of something bigger than he was. Once he became part of a unit, the brotherhood and the camaraderie kept him there.”

After his service in Iraq ended, Schafer volunteered for his tour in Afghanistan, despite pleas from Danielle to stay home, she recalled.

The family last saw Schafer alive at Christmas 2004. He would have been discharged in January 2007.

“He felt like he needed to go, and this was going to be his last deployment and we were going to be a real family this time,” Danielle said. “God had other plans.”

On the day Schafer was killed, he was leading his team on patrol in Oruzgan, Afghanistan.

He was shot once, then yelled to his squad to run when he was shot a second time, according to Army officials. The Army posthumously awarded Schafer the Silver Star, with a commendation that said he “saved the lives of at least two of his own soldiers at the sacrifice of his own life.”

He was the first Hernando County soldier to die in the line of duty since the war on terrorism began.

After the ceremony, Schafer’s family members and friends gathered to watch a video montage of photographs put together by Kevin Hart, a clerk at the branch.

“That’s Daddy!” exclaimed the Schafers’ 4-year-old son, Devin, as photos of Schafer faded in and out.

There was Mike the soldier: in fatigues with fellow soldiers in a desert in Iraq; posing with his unit, machine gun under his arm, against a mountainous backdrop in Afghanistan.

And there was Mike the son, husband, father and thrill seeker: holding his bride on their wedding day; clutching Devin on his lap; straddling his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Knowing the building would be dedicated in her husband’s honor has made the grieving process a little less difficult, Danielle said.

“It’s a way to concrete him into history,” she said. “He won’t be a statistic.”
The branch’s employees presented Schafer’s family with a poster featuring Schafer in his beret and uniform against a backdrop of the American flag that will hang in the lobby next to the plaque. Each employee had signed the back.

The branch workers felt compelled to help honor a hero, said Gail Esposito, a rural carrier.

“It kind of brought us all together,” Esposito said.

“I think it’s really great they’re not waiting fifty or a hundred years to do something for these guys,” said John Foley, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II and resident of Spring Hill who didn’t know Schafer but attended to pay his respects. “It’s good for morale, and it’s good for the family.”

George Brnilovich didn’t know Schafer, either, but made the drive from Jacksonville after seeing a notice about the ceremony in an Army newsletter. He served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, same as Schafer, but during the Vietnam War.

“Just to honor one of my comrades,” Brnilovich said. “It’s a pretty close-knit unit.”

Schafer’s parents still live in Spring Hill. The main branch is not the nearest to their home, said his mother, Karen Barr.

“But we’ll probably start coming to this one,” she said. “And I’ll probably start crying every time I come in and see that poster.”

She praised the postal service employees for their part in the ceremony.

“They went over and above,” Barr said. “It turned out to be a wonderful day.”

Fallen Soldier is Honored (News Article in Hernando Times on 8/31/06)  
The action ensures Spring Hill will remember Staff Sgt. Michael Wayne Schafer, who was killed in July 2005.
By BETH N. GRAY, Times Staff Writer
Published August 31, 2006

SPRING HILL - With more than 100 family, friends and admirers looking on, Staff Sgt. Michael Wayne Schafer was honored and immortalized during an emotional ceremony in his hometown Wednesday.

Schafer, a 25-year-old enlistee with the 173rd Airborne Division, was shot twice and died as he directed his squad during a firefight near Kandahar, Afghanistan, on July 25, 2005.

Now, thanks to an act of Congress, the 1998 Springstead High School graduate will never be forgotten in Hernando County.

The Spring Hill Post Office has been renamed the Staff Sgt. Michael Wayne Schafer Building. A plaque marking the new name and a dedication were unveiled Wednesday and will hang in the lobby.

The U.S. Postal Service hand imprinted the day's local mail with a special postmark, "Staff Sergeant Michael Wayne Schafer Dedication Station, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006, Spring Hill, FL 34606-4300."

Schafer's widow, Danielle Schafer, who married him on Dec. 30, 2000, said after the ceremony: "It's a great honor that he'll always be remembered. Years from now, people will remember."

Added U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, who sponsored the congressional act, "It's a federal building and it's appropriate so we can always remember Michael's contribution to the global war on terror."

Brown-Waite and others lauded Schafer as a hometown hero, saying his spirit was embodied in his courageous leadership. "And his action will be immortalized," she said.

In sports and in the military, Schafer was a team player who always looked out for others, said his stepfather, Daniel Barr.

Even after watching two friends die in Iraq, Schafer "took the challenge again," signing up for a tour in Afghanistan, said James Bradley, who is retired from the 173rd Airborne.

"Because of his action there are fewer terrorists today," Bradley said.

Barr and Bradley said Schafer never would have wanted the honor of a building named in his memory; he would have credited others. But "the dedication of a federal building is critical to preserving his memory," Bradley added.

Brooksville postmaster Michael P. Jordan said the ceremony and dedication was to "pay respect to Schafer's memory, a lasting tribute."

He noted the military and Postal Service are intimately connected, with 212,000 veterans nationwide employed in the agency and 13,000 postal workers serving in the military reserves.

Schafer's mother, Karen Barr, wept quietly throughout the ceremony. She was comforted by Schafer's stepbrother, Tim Barr, 19.

Workers at the post office also presented Danielle Schafer with a bouquet of red roses.

Aug 28, 2006

Post office to be dedicated to fallen soldier Wednesday

The main branch of the Spring Hill Post Office will soon bear the name of one of Hernando County’s fallen soldiers. 

A ceremony to rename the post office at 8501 Philatelic Drive after Staff Sgt. Michael Schafer is slated for Wednesday from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

The event will be held indoors but will be postponed if tropical storm Ernesto creates unsafe conditions, said Gary Sawtelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.

U.S Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who sponsored the bill to rename the post office, will speak at the ceremony. A plaque will be placed in the lobby signifying the renaming of the facility as the Staff Sergeant Michael Wayne Schafer building.

Schafer, a 1998 Springstead High graduate, was killed July 25, 2005 while leading his team on patrol in Oruzgan, Afghanistan. He was a 25-year-old team leader for the Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion 503rd Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the first Hernando County soldier to die in the line of duty since the war on terrorism began.

Schafer was shot once, then yelled to his squad to run when he was shot a second time, according to Army officials. The Army posthumously awarded Schafer the Silver Star, with a commendation that said he “saved the lives of at least two of his own soldiers at the sacrifice of his own life.”

Post Office to be Renamed After Fallen Local Soldier  

Mar 3, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, announced Friday that the post office in Spring Hill will be renamed in honor of Staff Sgt. Michael Schafer, the Spring Hill man who was killed by enemy fire last July 25 in Oruzgan, Afghanistan. The Springstead High School graduate was a member of the U.S. Army since 1999.

The U.S. post Office, located at 8501 Philatelic Drive in Spring Hill, will be renamed the Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer Post Office Building.

The new designation was created after Senate passage of House Bill 3703 and now the legislation goes to President Bush for his signature before it becomes public law.

Brown-Waite praised the bill’s passage and commented on the occasion: “Communities throughout Florida look for role models and true heroes for their children to emulate and admire,” she said. “Michael Schafer was a brave American who gave his life for our freedoms and liberties.

A good friend, a good husband and family man, Sgt. Schafer embodied the best attributes of our soldiers in uniform. I am so proud that Congress has honored a true American soldier by recognizing his commitment and sacrifice with this post office renaming today.”

Thinking of Him Still Hurts  
Published January 1, 2006
"M2 PRESSWIRE-JULY 27, 2005-US DOD: DoD identifies Army casualty ...

"The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Staff Sgt. Michael W. Schafer, 25, of Spring Hill, Fla., died July 25 in Oruzgan, Afghanistan, when he was shot by enemy forces while on a quick reaction force mission. Schafer was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, Vicenza, Italy.

"For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs ..."

That's what it said.

That's all it said.

Here's what it didn't say:

Michael Wayne Schafer weighed 6 pounds when he was born Aug. 16, 1979, in Waukegan, Ill.

He loved his mother's banana pudding.

He worked as a busboy at Guido's Pizza Cafe on Forest Oaks Boulevard. It was his first job. The waitresses loved him.

He got into a bad car wreck in high school in his two-door Ford Escort and had to be flown to Tampa. He got baptized after that at Spring Hill Baptist Church. Everybody said God was looking after him.

The first time he went out on a date with Danielle Daye, he dropped her off in his blue-green Dodge Shadow, walked her to her door and kissed her good night, and she walked inside and said to herself: "I'm going to marry him. He's going to be my husband."

He proposed to her on the sand in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in March 2000. They were married Dec. 30 of that year at Forest Oaks Lutheran Church in Spring Hill.

He left for Kosovo a week later.

They were going to live in Virginia.

They were going to have kids.

They were going to take a vacation, probably a cruise, just the two of them, as soon as he got back from Afghanistan.

They were adopting her sister's son when he was killed. The process has been finalized. Devin Daye-Schafer is 3 and lives in Virginia and sometimes asks Danielle when he'll be able to see Mike again.

Schafer wrote his mother a poem after he joined the Army. It ended like this: "I'll be back home before you know it."

He re-upped after his first three-year tour.

He was one of the first paratroopers to jump into Kirkuk, Iraq, in March 2003. Later that year, near Samarra, two of his best friends were killed by a roadside bomb. Schafer was killed in another country, in a different way, in a different year.

The weekend before, in a call home, he and his stepfather had started planning a fishing trip for his R&R in October. He was supposed to come home from Afghanistan in March 2006. He was supposed to get out of the Army in January 2007.

He is one of more than 900 American soldiers who were killed in 2005.

He is one of the close to 2,500 overall since the start of the wars.

He is the first from Hernando County. He is still the only one.

He gave blood regularly at the local blood bank on State Road 50.

He was a letter writer and a card sender.

The casket was closed at his wake.

According to the Christian Science Monitor in Boston, in a story by an embedded reporter that ran Oct. 31, this is how he was killed:

Spc. Christopher Velez, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is in the lead squad, says he senses something is wrong. Normally, children come up to American soldiers, asking for candy or pens. Here, there is nobody. Even the roosters are silent.

The village follows the shape of the valley: narrow at one end, and then opening up, with houses along the outskirts. The men begin to search each of those houses, north to south. Specialist Velez's team searches houses. Sergeant Hormann and his men line up shoulder to shoulder and search the orchard.

The Taliban are there. "We are close enough that we could hear their movements," says Hormann. "We could see the hand of some guy reaching for his weapon." ...

On the eastern edge of the orchard, Velez prepares to cross an open field toward a pair of mud-walled homes about 50 feet away. But as soon as he steps on the grass, he hears Kalashnikov fire aimed at him. He ducks back into the orchard, while other team members move into position, and Afghan National Army soldiers fire at the rooftops of the closest housing compound.

No one knows which home the gunfire is coming from. So O'Neal's men prepare to move in on the house to the left, while Sgt. Michael Schafer of Spring Hill, Fla., and the 2nd squad prepare to assault the house on the right.

What happens next unfolds quickly. "I hear fire, and somebody calls for a medic," says Velez. Sergeant Schafer kicks down the front door, steps inside, and gunfire erupts. Schafer is hit, but doesn't die instantly. He pushes his team leader, Sgt. Brian Hooper, back out the door, before falling to the floor.

O'Neal's squad rushes over. "Where's Sergeant Schafer? What's been cleared?" he demands. Sgt. Hooper is in shock. "When I see Hooper, I get scared. He's completely out of it," says O'Neal.

Finally, O'Neal peers inside the doorway at an angle, and sees Schafer slumped against the wall. He reaches for an automatic weapon, an M-249, and steps a bit closer to peer inside. The room is shrouded in darkness. He tries to turn on his tactical light on his helmet, but it doesn't work. There are no Taliban fighters in sight, but they are there.

"I'm not thinking very clearly," O'Neal admits later. "I just want to try to pull Schafer out with one hard pull."

Finally, after three attempts and several injuries, O'Neal tosses smoke grenades into the room while three soldiers pull Schafer's body out. The men toss standard grenades into the room to kill the Taliban inside. ...

Senate Congressional Record dated September 6, 2005  



Mr. Bayh:  Mr. President, I rise today with a heavy heart and deep sense of gratitude to honor the life of a brave soldier from Crown Point.  Michael Schafer, twenty-five years old, died on July 25th from enemy gunfire on a quick-reaction force mission in Oruzgan, Afghanistan.  With so much of his life left before him, Michael risked everything to fight for the values Americans hold close to our hearts, in a land halfway around the world.

A generous and humorous man, Michael enlisted in the military following high school and re-enlisted two years ago.  In joining the military, Michael continued a family tradition, as his father, Mark, served in the Navy.  He was among the paratroopers who jumped into northern
Iraq in March 2003 at the start of the war.  Upon the completion of his time in the Army, Michael dreamed of becoming a police officer.  A true believer in the cause of freedom, Michael often told his family that he loved what he was doing.  His family recounted to a local newspaper their pride in Michael and his habit of putting others before himself.  I stand here today to express the same feelings of pride and gratitude for this young Hoosier’s sacrifices and those made by his family on behalf of our country.

Michael was killed while serving his country in Operation Enduring Freedom.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment,
Vicenza, Italy.  This brave young soldier leaves behind his wife, Danielle, and their adopted son.

Today, I join Michael’s family and friends in mourning his death.  While we struggle to bear our sorrow over this loss, we can also take pride in the example he set, bravely fighting to make the world a safer place.  It is his courage and strength of character that people will remember when they think of Michael, a memory that will burn brightly during these continuing days of conflict and grief.

Michael was known for his dedication to his family and his love of country.  Today and always, Michael will be remembered by family members, friends and fellow Hoosiers as a true American hero and we honor the sacrifice he made while dutifully serving his country.

As I search for words to do justice in honoring Michael’s sacrifice, I am reminded of President Lincoln’s remarks as he addressed the families of the fallen soldiers in
Gettysburg:  “We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”  This statement is just as true today as it was nearly 150 years ago, as I am certain that the impact of Michael’s actions will live on far longer than any record of these words.

It is my sad duty to enter the name of Michael Schafer in the official record of the
United States Senate for his service to this country and for his profound commitment to freedom, democracy and peace.  When I think about this just cause in which we are engaged, and the unfortunate pain that comes with the loss of our heroes, I hope that families like Michael’s can find comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah who said, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.”

May God grant strength and peace to those who mourn, and may God be with all of you, as I know He is with Michael.

Congressional Record of the Passing of H.R. 3703  


Florida. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 3703) to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 8501 Philatelic Drive in Spring Hill, Florida, as the ``Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer Post Office Building''.

e Clerk read as follows:

H.R. 3703 

e it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of  the United States of America in Congress assembled,

  (a) Designation.--The facility of the United States Postal  Service located at 8501 Philatelic Drive in Spring Hill, Florida, shall be known and designated as the “Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer Post Office Building''.
  (b) References.--Any reference in a law, map, regulation, document, paper, or other record of the United States to the facility referred to in subsection (a) shall be deemed to be a reference to the “Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer Post Office Building''.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bradley of
New Hampshire). Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Watson) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from
Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite).

General Leave

Florida. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the bill under consideration.  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Florida?

There was no objection.

Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 3703. I introduced this bill to honor the life of fallen U.S. Army
Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer. On July 25 this year, while fighting extremist forces in Afghanistan, Sergeant Schafer made the ultimate sacrifice for our great Nation that he loved so dearly.  I sincerely appreciate leadership's willingness to schedule this legislation for consideration today. I can only hope that with the enactment of H.R. 3703, Michael's widow, parents, and family will be comforted by this small token on behalf of a Nation that is eternally grateful for Michael's service.

Schafer, a native of the beautiful town of Spring Hill in my district, answered the call to service by enlisting in the Army in 1998. At the age of 25, Michael had already served tours of duty in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He became the team leader of the Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. In addition to being an excellent soldier, he was a model citizen, a dutiful son, and a very caring husband.

Tragically, enemy combatants ambushed
Sergeant Schafer and his squad in Oruzgan, Afghanistan, on July 25, 2005. They fired shots at the American forces. One shot struck Sergeant Schafer. Although wounded, he still managed to alert the rest of his team to the imminent danger and ordered them to evacuate the area. However, another shot then killed him.  The Army posthumously awarded Sergeant Schafer the Silver Star and Purple Heart. The Army recognized that his last act saved the lives of at least two of his own soldiers. I am deeply humbled by the brave and selfless actions of this young hero.  I urge my distinguished colleagues to join me in honoring the sacrifice made by Michael Schafer to defend the freedom of our great Nation, and I thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis) for making possible House passage of this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. WATSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Committee on Government Reform, I am pleased to join the gentlewoman from
Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) in consideration of H.R. 3703, legislation naming a postal facility in Spring Hill, Florida, after Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer, a courageous soldier who was killed in Afghanistan.

This measure, which was introduced by the gentlewoman from
Florida on September 8, 2005, and unanimously reported by the Committee on Government Reform on September 15, 2005, enjoys the support and cosponsorship of many members, including the entire Florida delegation.

Sergeant Michael Schafer grew up in Spring Hill and enlisted in he Army in 1998, serving tours of duty in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Sergeant Schafer was the team leader of the Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.  On July 25, 2005, Staff Sergeant Schafer was killed in action while leading his team on patrol in Oruzgan, Afghanistan. Enemy combatants ambushed his squad and wounded him with a bullet. Before the second fatal shot was fired, Sergeant Schafer alerted his team to the imminent danger and ordered them to run. The Army awarded him both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, recognizing that his last actions saved the lives of at least two of his soldiers at the sacrifice of his own life.

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for seeking to honor the legacy of
Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer whose loyalty to his company saved his soldiers' lives. I urge the swift passage of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

Florida. Mr. Speaker, I have no additional requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentlewoman from
Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 3703.

The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed.

KEEPING MICHAEL'S MEMORY ALIVE (Hernando Times Newspaper)  

The House of Representatives will vote today on a plan to rename the Spring Hill post office for Staff Sgt. Michael Wayne Schafer. 

SPRING HILL - He was the ultimate team player.

A son, a husband, a father and a soldier.

Army Staff Sgt. Michael Wayne Schafer, 25, was a leader until the end.

And when the Springstead High School graduate was shot and killed on July 25 while on a quick reaction force mission in Oruzgan, Afghanistan, Hernando County vowed never to forget him.

"In times when children and families need role models to look up to and emulate, Sgt. Schafer was a true American hero," U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Crystal River, said just days after his death.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on renaming the Spring Hill post office on Philatelic Drive after Schafer.

Brown-Waite expects the measure to pass overwhelmingly.

"Everyone signed on," she said. "It shows Congress' appreciation for the sacrifices the military makes for us every day."

If her prediction is correct, the Spring Hill post office could be named for Schafer by early next year.

"It will be nice that 20, 30, 40 years from now, when every-body who knew him is gone, people will still know who he was," his widow, Danielle Schafer, said, choking back tears.

The measure would need to pass in the Senate and go on to President Bush.

The Spring Hill location was chosen because so many in the community knew and loved Schafer.

His first job was as a busboy at Guido's pizza parlor on Forest Oaks Boulevard, where the waitresses loved him.

He graduated from Springstead in 1998.

"He wasn't popular because he was flashy," Coach Bill Vonada told the Times. "He was popular because he was genuine."

Schafer worked as a lifeguard at Weeki Wachee's Buccaneer Bay and then at the Innsbrook resort in Palm Harbor.

He and his wife were married Dec. 30, 2000, at Forest Oaks Lutheran Church.

It was his long history with Hernando County that inspired Brown-Waite to honor him here.

"He grew up here. He attended school locally," she said. "Although I didn't know him, I was very deeply touched by how much it affected the community."

Staff Sgt. Schafer, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, was the 94th soldier from Florida to be killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

By the new year, the post office at 8501 Philatelic Drive may become another memorial to a man who died serving his country.

It's name: Staff Sergeant Michael Schafer Post Office Building.

As Reported in the "Stars and Stripes"  
Staff Sgt. Michael W. Schafer didn’t have to deploy to Afghanistan. His hearing, it seems, had deteriorated to the point where he was to be discharged from the Army before Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, was to leave. But Schafer wouldn’t have it.

“He said ‘This is my platoon, these are my guys, these are my brothers,’” explained Schafer’s friend Sgt. Christopher Holbrook. So, with his brand-new hearing aids in place, Schafer deployed with the Vicenza, Italy-based unit.

“He was one of our brothers, one of the ‘Chosen Few,’” said Company C commander Capt. Eric Gardner during a memorial service for Schafer at Forward Operating Base Lagman.

Dozens of soldiers crowded the base’s dining facility Saturday to pay their respect to a fellow soldier and friend.

Schafer was shot and killed while clearing a house in Oruzgan province July 25. He was the first man in the building — leading from the front — when he was hit. “He was not a sergeant who just told people what to do,” said the battalion chaplain, Capt. David Schnarr, choking back tears. “He led by example.”

“His actions that day were nothing short of heroic,” said 1st Lt. Timothy O’Neal, Schafer’s platoon leader.

The 25-year-old was awarded the Silver Star Medal for those heroic actions in which he was credited with saving the lives of two of his fellow soldiers.

Schafer had already earned a Bronze Star Medal for the company’s deployment to Iraq in 2003 and early 2004.

But it wasn’t just the tough-as-nails soldier that fellow company members will remember.

They’ll remember that, before deploying to Afghanistan, Schafer visited the family of a Chosen Company soldier who had been killed in Iraq. They also remember long motorcycle rides through the Italian mountains and frequent plans to go hiking on their weekends off. “We only went twice, but we had lots of plans,” said Holbrook jokingly.

Finally, they’ll remember a loving husband who was in the process of adopting a child.

And Holbrook said that Schafer’s love for his country was only exceeded by the love for that family. Schafer had made the hard decision to leave the Army at the end of his enlistment — a decision, Holbrook said, that he felt would be best for his family. “He was a dedicated family man and loved his country almost to a fault,” Holbrook said.

A Fallen Soldier is Honored  

On Saturday night, August 6, 2005,  a community in Hernando County remembered a fallen soldier from their area.

People gathered in the gym at Springstead High School. It’s the same gym Michael played basketball in before he graduated six years ago.

Danielle Schafer

"Mike is looking down at us tonight grinning from ear to ear and asking us to all buy a flag tomorrow. Wave it proudly and show what a great country we live in. Support our troops and honor all of our fallen soldiers."

Even people who didn’t know Michael personally were touched by his memory.

Diane Rowden, Hernando County Commissioner

"This is a terrible tragedy and loss for our community and we need to honor our troops, honor Mike and continue to show our appreciation for all that they do for us."

Michael is one of the few soldiers to see combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Awarded the Silver Star  
The U.S. Army awarded Michael the Silver Star during the funeral service at Spring Hill Baptist Church on Mariner Boulevard.

According to the commendation, which was read at the funeral, his actions on the battlefield "saved the lives of at least two of his own soldiers at the sacrifice of his own life."

Michael Wayne Schafer was the 74th soldier from Florida to die in this war. He was the 214th to die in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, though, in the late morning at the Spring Hill Baptist Church, then in the early afternoon at the Florida Hills Memorial Gardens cemetery, he was just Mike.

"A wonderful son, husband, father, soldier," the Rev. Raymond Rouse said.

He was standing behind a wide maple-colored lectern with red flowers in front. Behind him, up above, were two screens with a picture of Schafer in uniform, in front of the flag: broad shoulders, chin up.

Sgt. Michael Schafer. "B Team Leader," the text read, "173rd Airborne Division, C/2-503, 1st Platoon, 3rd Squad." Twenty-five years old.

He was killed on July 25, 2005, in Oruzgan, Afghanistan, when he was shot by enemy forces on a quick reaction force mission, the Department of Defense press release said.

In the last week, what happened has become clearer: Schafer was up front. He took the bullets. Others survived because of him.  He earned the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

On Wednesday at 10:13 a.m., at the church at the corner of Mariner Boulevard and Linden Drive, two Hernando County sheriff's cars stopped in the middle of the intersection and turned on their flashing lights.

Then four sheriff's motorcycles led a blue town car from Turner Funeral Home and a Spring Hill fire truck. Then the hearse. Then a black limo, then a silver limo, then a van, then another fire truck, then two sheriff's cars.

Five minutes later, inside the lobby, seven men in green uniforms and shiny black shoes wheeled in the coffin. The coffin was covered with an American flag.

People who had arrived early stopped looking at the pictures to turn and face the coffin.

The coffin was wheeled into the church, down the center aisle. People already inside the church - maybe three, four dozen of them - stood up and faced the coffin, too.

Inside, the crowd was beginning to grow: small boys in khakis, teenagers with eyebrow studs, men in suits, men in wheelchairs. Women in black. Men in uniforms gave each other handshakes, firm, from pew to pew, and said nothing.

At 11:20, inside the church, the doors were closed, and out in the lobby the family had come together: his parents, his brothers, his sister, his wife, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews.

The doors opened.

Karen Barr, Mike's mother, took off her sunglasses.

The music stopped.

A baby coughed.

"Heavenly Father," Rouse began, "we bow our heads and our hearts before you ..."

The service opened with Amazing Grace. Rouse began by reading the obituary.

Next, on the screens, was a PowerPoint presentation the family had put together. Beaches and birthday cakes, dances and proms, team pictures from football and basketball. Riding four-wheelers.

Fishing somewhere where the water was blue.

Dressed, finally, in desert-colored gear.

A lieutenant colonel read out loud letters to the family from soldiers who had served with Mike.

"Danielle," one began, addressed to his wife. "Mike was a great man, and a leader."  Another: "He was our brother. That will never change."  And another: "Every day, for the rest of my life, I will remember Staff Sgt. Schafer."

A young woman read letters from the family - to Mike.  "I hope one day I become half the man you were," Tim Barr had written to his big brother. "I promise to take care of Mom."

His wife spoke next. Danielle Schafer, 25, wore a slim black dress.  "Nine days ago," she said at the start, from behind the lectern, "I lost the greatest man I've ever known."  She said Mike, her husband of nearly five years, had taught her love and compassion, and she thanked his parents for giving her "a gift."  "I love you," she said through tears at the end, "past the moon, past the stars, way, way up in the sky."

Big men wiped their faces.

"Lord," Rouse said, looking down at the Barrs from Spring Hill, the Schafers from Virginia, the extended family from all over, "I pray that you bless them in a special way in the days, months and years that lay ahead."

Outside, the four motorcycles, a fire truck and more motorcycles driven by Vietnam vets in leather vests led the procession onto Linden Drive.  Cars with their headlights on in the bright early-afternoon sun moved past the sheriff's cars and made the left onto Mariner at the blocked-off intersection, then the left onto Spring Hill Drive.

A man with a beard stood on the grass by the side of the road and held an American flag.  A woman next to him had her hand over her heart.

A man came out of the Walgreens at the corner of Anderson Snow Road and did not move.

At Florida Hills, at 1:13 p.m., the men in the green uniforms carried the casket out of the back of the hearse. They wheeled it to a spot under the roof of a wooden pavilion, in the only shade around. Danielle Schafer rocked back and forth in her seat.

There were three rounds of fire. There were salutes. There was taps.  Danielle Schafer's hands shook. She sobbed.  The men marched toward the coffin. They took the flag off. The coffin was silver.  They folded the flag the way it's supposed to be folded: tight, into a triangle, with care. Stars showing. 

Members of the family were given red roses. They moved past the coffin and set the roses on top.  Karen Barr put hers down. She kissed her right hand, then used it to touch the coffin, then patted it for a second, then held her touch for just a little while longer. 

At 2:01 p.m., under some pines and some oaks with Spanish moss, Michael Wayne Schafer was put in the ground.



There comes a time in every boy's life
When he leaves the warmth of the nest
Perhaps to look for all your qualities in his future wife;
Or join the working class like the rest.

I am standing here before you this very day.
To let you know when I leave not to fear,
Because I will never be that far away.
And you will always be near and dear

To my heart,
It is where I will keep your love.
I now know that the bond that we have between us cannot be torn apart.
And when I think of you so beautiful like a white dove

I want you to know that as I leave for the Army,
If you are feeling scared, do not be afraid to show it.
Your love for me won't let any one harm me.
I will be back home before you know it.''

A True Friend and Patriot  

Michael was an outgoing, athletic friend--a patriot ready to put his life on the line for his country.

"He felt like he was fighting for our freedom," said his stepsister, Sarah Schafer. "My brother was the type of person that would not have his platoon do anything that he wouldn't do first. That's why he took the front line. He was the one to walk through the door."

"He was a loving person," she said. "No matter what was going on in his life, he always seemed to keep a positive personality. He was not only my brother but my best friend."

Michael's father, Mark Schafer, recalls with pride his son's outgoing nature and generosity. He'd do anything for anybody.   He'd give you the shirt off of his back. That's the way he's always been."

Michael worked as a lifeguard at Buccaneer Bay several years ago. General Manager Robyn Anderson reflected on what a wonderful person Michael was. The entire staff at Weeki Wachee Springs and Buccaneer Bay honor Michael's sacrifice to protect the freedom that each and every one of us enjoy and we extend our thoughts and prayers to Michael's family.

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