RICHLAND, WA - Fallen Marine Sergeant and Hanford High School graduate Dietrich Schmieman is heading home for the last time...nearly a month after dying in a helicopter crash in Mississippi.
Reporter Mackenzie Allen was in Ritzville yesterday as Dietrich's friends and family celebrated his life with a memorial skydive. She learned why the skydive was so important to Dietrich's parents.
This was the second time jumping for Dietrich's dad, Eric. His first time was with his son. This is Dietrich's mother, Susan's, first time. An experience she says will live with her forever.
"We have a couple of heavy days, with Dietrich coming home and facing that reality," Susan said. "It's a painful truth. This hopefully will live in our hearts and kind of soften that painful truth."
Susan now wears a memorial to her son around her neck. But rather than grieve the loss of Dietrich, the skydive gave her an opportunity to celebrate him.
"We needed this jump to have some fun, a different kind of excitement, and I don't know what it is, but there is a little bit of peace that comes with this," Susan said. "I know that Dietrich's girlfriend Morgan, when she jumped a couple weeks ago she said the same thing, she said after she jumped there was a sense of peace, and I feel a little more at ease, I'm not sure why that is."
Susan adds that the skydive - and being able to spend time with Dietrich's team - has allowed them to discover a new side of their son. And they couldn't be more proud.
"When Dietrich left home, I didn't see the potential in him. And the stories they've shared with us revealed a side of Dietrich we can't explain. He had a love for people. He cared for his friends and he would do anything for them and vice versa, and yeah, the stories have been heartwarming, and they're balm for the soul, they really are."
Susan says that though she doesn't quite understand her son's love of skydiving, she's ready to get back in a plane and give it another shot.
As the community gathers together today to honor fallen Marine Staff Sergeant Dietrich Schmieman, we also spoke with one man who knew him better than maybe anyone else: his team commander.
Dietrich's team commander, Captain Moises Navas, says that in spite of the challenges - both physically and mentally that were required to be part of the MARSOC team - Dietrich always had a smile on his face.
He says that spending the last couple days with Eric and Susan Schmieman, it became apparent how important his parents were in shaping the kind of man he became.
The kind of man who gave everything he had into his role as a Marine, and proved to be a shining example to the rest of the team.
"Dietrich really was the definition of sound professional, he did was he was asked and more," Capt. Navas said. "Definitely the team was better, and we are better because we got to work with him for the past year."
RITZVILLE, WA - "A good day", "a happy day"....that's how fallen Marine Dietrich Schmieman's friends and family described their experiences today as they went skydiving in his honor.
Reporter Mackenzie Allen got the chance to speak with Dietrich's girlfriend, Morgan Zoufal, and she said that today has been one of the bright spots since she first learned Dietrich died in a plane crash last month.
22-year-old Zoufal says the loss of her boyfriend - 26-year-old Special Ops Sergeant Dietrich Schmieman - still doesn't feel real. But she knows the reality will finally sink in tomorrow when he returns home for his memorial service.
"It comes in waves, where at first you still think they're going to come home and it doesn't happen to them," Zoufal said.
Which is why it was so important for her to go skydiving today in his honor with his family and friends.
"It's finally something to be happy about, puts a smile on your face," she said. "There's a lot going on and there's a lot of sad stuff but this is at least something we can smile about and be happy about and do in his honor."
She says her love of skydiving came directly from Dietrich.
"The first time I went was with him and it was the day before the ball and that was extreme special," she said. "I didn't understand what the big deal was, and I was absolutely terrified until I jumped with him and then I was kind of addicted to it. Then we did the other one in North Carolina a few weeks ago, and then this one. It's just the best way I know how to honor him is to keep doing everything he loved and living life to the fullest."
Zoufal also added that her and Dietrich's family are encouraging anyone who wants to honor Dietrich - whether they knew him personally or not - to go skydiving and experience that rush.
RICHLAND, WA - We've had several people reach out to us wondering why, more than a week after a plane crash killed local marine Dietrich Schmieman, the governor hasn't ordered the flags lowered to half staff.
We reached out to the Governor's Office this morning and were told Governor Jay Inslee is planning to order flags lowered but he is working with the family so the declaration comes on the day of the service.
But Dietrich's parents are asking anyone with their own personal flag to honor their son's sacrifice by lowering their flag now.
"Other members of the community don't need an invitation to fly the flag at half mast,” said Eric Schmieman.
"And some of the neighbors have been really kind to put their flags at half mast, spread the word to others, that this is a time to honor our fallen men,” added Susan Schmieman.
Dietrich's body, along with the other 15 men killed in the crash, is still in Delaware.
No word yet exactly when Dietrich will be back home, but the family is planning to hold a memorial service August 12th.
RICHLAND, WA - It's been one week since Eric and Susan Schmieman learned their 26-year-old son, Dietrich, was in a plane crash while serving with the Marines. Reporter Mackenzie Allen sat down with the family to learn how they are dealing with this unimaginable loss, sharing with her the story of a brave young man gone far too soon.
"I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense," so reads the first article in the Marine Code of Conduct.
A code Susan and Eric say they knew their son Dietrich would willingly fulfill...but they never imagined it would happen like this, in a plane crash here in the United States.
"Now it's been a week later, and it's just as hard," Eric said.
"Yeah, it is," agreed Susan. "I can't believe it's been a week. But anyway."
In fact, when two Marines arrived at their door late Monday night, they say at first they thought it was Dietrich home early for a visit.
"I opened the door and I couldn't understand why this man wasn't smiling at me, why he wasn't grabbing me and giving me a hug," Susan recalled, "and then I saw the second one and it's never good when you have uniforms at your door at the middle of the night, and that's when I said, 'no, this can't be.'"
Eric and Susan spent Memorial weekend with their son in South Carolina. It's a memory Susan says she will cherish forever.
"We walked out to the parking lot and I prayed the benediction over him and I took his face in my hands which I've never really done before, and I said, 'remember who you belong to,' and I turned and walked away. And that was my last words to him."
They say their faith, and knowing that they will see their son again, makes the loss easier to bear. And given the opportunity to go back and do it all over again, they would still support their son's decision to enlist.
"He grew up into such a wonderful soul and he shared that with others."
Looking back through old photos, they say they've just recently realized that their son was always destined for this life. That he was not only meant to be a Marine, but an elite member of the Marine Special Operation Raiders.
"He loved the challenge; the physical challenge, the mental challenge, the spiritual challenge...the more miserable the conditions, the bigger his smile."
They shared a story with Mackenzie about Dietrich as a young boy, and how even then he was mischievous and willing to prove there was nothing he couldn't do.
"His brothers came running out of the house one day while we were working in the garden, and they said, 'Mom, Dietrich is stuck on the ceiling,' and we went running in and there he was, stuck on the ceiling. His brothers had challenged him to walk with his hands on one wall and he feet on the other and he couldn't get down. Fortunately Eric caught him."
They still don't know when Dietrich will finally be able to come home, but they say he wanted his ashes spread right here in the Tri-Cities so he can always be close to family and friends.
"As close as the brotherhood of warriors is of MARSOC, Dietrich was just as close with his friends here in the Tri-Cities."
The family says they are grateful for all of the support they've been shown, but they are surprised that neither President Trump nor Washington Governor Jay Inslee have ordered flags lowered to half staff. In fact, they have even sent a letter to the governor requesting that he do so. We will be reaching out to the governor's office tomorrow and following up on this story.
RICHLAND, WA - Richland native Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman joined the Marine Corps at 19 years old with an ambition to serve in Special Operations, his dad said. And Schmieman died this week doing what he loved.
The KC-130 was headed to El Centro California and then to Arizona to drop off the Raiders for a training mission. It crashed into a field in rural Mississippi Monday afternoon, and burst into flames.
We told you yesterday about how 26-year-old Schmieman from Richland was aboard this plane. He served in a reconnaissance unit before joining the elite Raider Command stationed at Camp Lejeune two years ago.
When remembering Schmieman, his friends said that he always helped them and he inspired them to live life to the fullest.
A memorial service was held today in Jacksonville, North Carolina to honor the fallen soldiers.
During a news conference at Camp Lejeune, the deputy commander of Marine Special Operations asked for continued prayers and support for the families and friends of the men.
"The cornerstone of the Marine Corps and Special Operations community is our people," said Colonel Steven Grass. "The command's top priority right now is caring for the families of our fallen. We ask for continued prayers and support during this difficult difficult time and as the families begin the long process of grief and recovery."
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the final set of remains was recovered Thursday from a farm field where the KC-130 crashed. Remains were flown Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where military officials say they will be released to their grieving families.
RICHLAND, WA - We've learned that one of the Marines tragically killed in a Mississippi plane crash earlier this week is Hanford High School graduate and Richland native, Dietrich Schmieman. Reporter Mackenzie Allen spoke with some of Schmieman's friends today to learn more about this brave Marine and how they're choosing to remember him.
Marine Raider Dietrich Schmieman was one of sixteen service members killed this week when their plane went down in Mississippi. The Marine Raiders are an elite special ops branch of the Marine Corps., founded back during WWII.
In and out of uniform, Schmieman's pictures on Facebook paint him as a happy young man, loved by many. And that's how his friends are choosing to remember him.
"Just going out to the mountains, going camping, talking on the chairlift, just having a good time and seeing the world," said friend Chris Lynch.
Lynch has known Schmieman since they were in 4th grade, and describes him as one of his best friends. He says he was initially surprised when Schmieman enlisted, but not by how quickly he was able to advance.
"You know, he wanted to be a good person," Lynch said. "When he wanted to do something he did it one hundred and ten percent."
It's a loss that's especially poignant here in the Tri-Cities...but will be felt by all who had the opportunity to know him.
"Just knowing what he does, I knew this was always an option of what could happen, but you just never really expect it," said Lynch. "People that I've talked to, this is going to affect people all around the world, all around the country."
In fact, condolences and fond memories have been flooding Facebook, with many referencing the viking after world Valhalla and the quote, "Never above you, never below you, always beside you."
How are people helping?
A non-profit group created by wives of Marine Raiders is trying to raise money to support the families of the fallen service members. So far, they've raised about $18,000 with a goal of $300,000.
You can help too, by clicking this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/supporting-raider-families-leflore-mississippi-tragic-accident/fundraiser/raisingraiders
Mackenzie Allen also spoke with Schmieman's youth pastor, who shared his fond memories of this brave Marine.
He was an elite Marine, but those who knew Marine Raider Dietrich Schmieman as much more than that. They describe him as smart and charismatic, and as a man whose faith helped shape who he was. Pastor Corey Smith first met Schmieman when he was just in middle school, and helped guide him through his time at Hanford High School.
"It was just like a load of bricks had been dropped on us," Pastor Smith said.
He says the loss still doesn't feel real.
"For most of us, the feeling of sadness that the world has lost such a good person, it just doesn't seem fair. "
Determined even as a boy, Pastor Smith remembers one particular field trip where Schmieman wouldn't let anything stop him from going.
"I remember once on our way to a retreat he threw up in the back of our church van, but absolutely refused to go home, he wanted to keep going," explained Pastor Smith.
And a service trip years later, where he proved himself to be a natural leader.
"Just such a magnetic personality, kids just loved him, our kids who went with, just thoroughly enjoyed having him there and that was just him."
But once he enlisted, that's when Smith says he saw Schmieman really blossom into the man he was meant to be.
"I remember looking at him and thinking, 'Man, when you left you were a kid, and now you're a man.' He had really just grown into being a Marine."
More than anything though, Pastor Smith will remember him as kind.
"Just extremely kindhearted, I mean he was a kid who loved to have fun, but at the same time, he always just so kind to people."
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - For an elite band of U.S. Marines known as the Raiders, the deadly military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years.
Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died this week on their way to training exercises. That links them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.
The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.
The Raiders' commanders say the group has close bonds that make such losses devastating.
Among the sixteen dead was a Richland native and Hanford High School 2009 graduate Dietrich Schmieman.
Several friends posted the following in the wake of Scmieman's death.
"Truly crushed to hear about you going to Valhalla, Dietrich Schmieman. From our random texts or the mid winter chatting about crushing the slopes, you always kept me laughing. In Jump, I was amazed with those ridiculous legs that fit into them Silkies!!! I just told you I was coming to the east coast and was stoked to link the pups up and chill.
Till Valhalla bro, we will see each other again!" - Wayne
"Now that the names are being released I want you guys to raise a glass and pour one out for Dietrich Schmieman. He was a bada** dude and a new drinking bro who passed away during the plane crash yesterday. Until we meet again in Valhalla brother!" - Hector
"To the family of Dietrich Schmieman. To your loss I'm sorry. To the man man I never knew, may your peace be found in the next life. May your sacrifice never be in vein . May you be treated as a king in the new world. Rest in piece my brother. May you never know another struggle in this world. Go forth and conquer the next world until we meet at the gates of Valhalla, and fight side by side . From one infantrymen to a fellow soldier. I love you even though I will never having the pleasure of serving next to you. Thank you for your ultimate sacrifice." - Shawn
"Rest easy brother. I will remember you as the nicest guy at the BN. Since the first day you have always been that guy that would do anything for anybody. Humble to the core. If someone needed a favor you would not hesitate to lend a helping hand." - Mark
"Woke up thinking about you still. I can't get you off my mind. I can not believe you are gone. MARSOC lost one of the best I miss you Dietrich Schmieman. WISH YOU WHERE HERE! TILL VALHALLA" - Michael
"Dietrich Schmieman bro I'm lost for words. We lost a great Marine and friend to many. My condolences go out to your family and they should know that they raised a Great man. Dude you will be missed bro" - Brandon
"Such a tragic loss for the Marine Corp today, especially the aviation, MARSOC, and Recon communities. Dietrich Schmieman was such a great dude. God bless his family and the families of the other service members in yesterdays C130 crash. Rest easy bro" - Jesse
"I'm kind of at a loss for words right now, but I can't ever thank you enough for the calm you provided me during rough seas. Rest easy, Dietrich Schmieman. Never above you, never below you, always beside you." - Ryan