Community shows support for young paratrooper from Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Two people embrace after a motorcade passed through downtown Medina at about 6 p.m. today. Several hundred people lined Main Street. The motorcade arrived about a half hour earlier than expected.

More than 100 motorcyclists served as escorts for Sgt. Shaina Schmigel.

‘It takes a special breed to jump out of an airplane. You have to have no fear.’ – Keith Gilbert, friend of the Schmigel family

MEDINA – They stood holding American flags, and many of the hundreds lined up along Main Street saluted as a motorcade passed by carrying the body of Sgt. Shaina Schmigel.

Schmigel, 21, came home this afternoon and the Medina community came out in big numbers. The motorcade was a half hour ahead of schedule when it reached downtown Medina.

“It’s important that we support our service people,” said Sherri Luthart of Medina. “I get all choked up about it. She paid the ultimate price for our freedom.”

Photos by Tom Rivers

American flags seemed to multiply on Main Street when the motorcade passed through downtown Medina.

Schmigel is a Medina native. She was killed May 30 during a night-time training drill. Schmigel was a paratrooper at Fort Bragg with the 82nd Airborne Division. She was in the Army for four years, and was promoted to sergeant in January.

“She wanted to go for all she could go for,” said Keith Gilbert, a close family friend from the town of Alabama. “She wasn’t afraid of anything.”

Schmigel was a cheerleader at Medina, a member of the Class of 2010.

“She was a sweet, sweet girl who was always smiling and always happy,” said Judy Gilbert, Keith’s wife.

Judy Gilbert holds a picture of Sgt. Shaina Schmigel of Medina.

When Schmigel was a Fort Bragg she developed a love for rodeos. She kept in touch with her family and considered her mother Karie Schmigel to be a best friend. The two got matching tattoos on their shoulder last month of a tiger lily, Mrs. Gilbert said.

“Most kids don’t want anything to do with their parents, but Shaina loved her family and would do anything for them,” Gilbert said.

As a paratrooper in the Army, she deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn from July to November 2011.

Mercy Flight followed overhead as a motorcade entered Medina. The ladder trucks for the Albion and Medina Fire Departments held a giant American flag high over Main Street.

Mr. Gilbert would ask Schmigel about jumping out of an airplane.

“She told me you just think of the free fall, opening the chute and the landing,” he said. “It takes a special breed to jump out of an airplane. You have to have no fear.”

Her awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Parachutist Badge.

Lisa Trippensee was out along the street waving an American flag for Schmigel.

“I’ve heard amazing things about her,” Trippensee said. “She was definitely a go-getter. You couldn’t hold her down. She was very determined.”

Photos by Tom Rivers

The crowd today included many veterans and Scouts. Brian Bogan, 17, and Boy Scouts from Troop 35 in Medina stood along Main Street while the motorcade went by.

Bogan was impressed by the escort that included many police cars, a Mercy Flight helicopter and more than 100 motorcyclists.

“I’m thankful to all of them that would come out and do what they do,” Bogan said.

Local veterans’ groups tried to rally community support for the motorcade. Larry Montello, commander of the American Legion in Medina, wasn’t surprised by the turnout.

“We wanted to show her and her family that she’s not forgotten,” Montello said. “She’s a fallen comrade and we’re paying respect for her service to our country.”

That motorcade escorted Schmigel’s body from the airport in Buffalo to Medina and then to Batavia.

The Patriot Guard Riders joined the motorcade.

Calling hours will be on Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m. at The Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral & Cremation Chapel, located at 4120 West Main Street Rd. Schmigel’s funeral will be there at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. After the funeral, Schmigel will be buried with full military honors at Evergreen Hill Cemetery in Corfu.

The flight landed in Buffalo about a half hour early. After the motorcade passed through town, many people were still descending on the downtown. The crowd would have been bigger if the motorcade had arrived at 6:30, as scheduled.

But Mr. Gilbert, the close family friend, said the community made its presence felt.

“I’m sure the family is very impressed,” he said. “Medina is a tight-knit community. In a small town even if you’re not family you are.”