A BRAVE, UNSELFISH HERO (Iraq vet memorial)

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A BRAVE, UNSELFISH HERO (Iraq vet memorial)

Postby Micronaut » Tue Mar 07, 2006 7:11 pm

A BRAVE, UNSELFISH HERO
By DAN HERBECK
News Staff Reporter
3/5/2006
http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20 ... 008767.asp

Pfc. Benjamin C. Schuster will be memorialized with full military honors.
His family says Pfc. Benjamin C. Schuster was always laughing and joking, always riding around on a moped, or working on some crazy gadget or scheme.
But he was serious about one thing - fighting in Iraq.

"I've never seen him so passionate about anything in his life," said Schuster's brother, Andrew M. Davis of Wheatfield. "There was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing."

Schuster, 21, of Grand Island, is the first local soldier to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan this year.

He had volunteered for duty in Iraq and had been there less than three weeks when he was killed by a gunshot wound on Feb. 25 in the city of Ramadi.

Schuster's Buffalo-based Army National Guard Unit was not scheduled for duty in Iraq, so he recently volunteered to fill a position in Iraq with another unit based in Pennsylvania.

"He told us he volunteered for one reason - because if he went, that was one other person who wouldn't have to go," his brother said. "Ben didn't want someone else to have to go in his place."

"That was Ben. He was a brave and unselfish person, every day of his life," said longtime friend Brandan Jones. "He was a hero."

Friends and family members met Saturday at a wake for Schuster in a funeral home in Sanborn. He will be memorialized with military honors Monday morning in St. John Lutheran Church in North Tonawanda.

The U.S. Department of Defense said Schuster died of a gunshot wound Feb. 25. His death was not made public until Friday. So far, the government has declined to discuss the circumstances of the shooting, saying it is under investigation.

Military officials declined late Saturday to say whether Schuster died from enemy or friendly fire, adding that an answer will be provided later.

"Right now, we're just waiting for the proper military channels to tell us exactly what happened. We're waiting for official word," Davis said. Schuster is at least the 22nd serviceman from Western New York to die in the fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 101st Cavalry, based in the Masten Avenue Armory.

But he went to Iraq with Company C, 876th Engineers B, 2nd Marine Division, a unit from Pennsylvania that had sent out word it needed additional personnel to serve in Iraq.

"Ben was one of about 100 National Guard members from New York state who have volunteered to fill personnel shortages in other units," said Major Katherine Oliver, a public affairs officer for the National Guard's 27th Brigade Combat Team.

A tall, lanky young man who was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters, Schuster is remembered by friends for his compassion and great sense of humor.

"If anyone was down or sad about something, Ben always had a way of bringing humor to the situation, and making them feel better," said Sgt. Arthur D. York, 28, a close friend who served with Schuster's unit in Buffalo.

York is a member of an honor guard that will take part in Monday's funeral. The honor guard spent several hours rehearsing Saturday at the Masten Armory.

"It hit me hard when I found out about Ben," York said after the practice session. "A lot of our people went over to Iraq and came back in March of last year. Ben talked to them about it, and then, he decided to go. He felt it was his duty to go."

Schuster was born in Hudson, but spent most of his life in the Audubon neighborhood of Amherst. He attended public schools in Amherst and Grand Island. He dropped out of Grand Island High School in 2002, but later earned his general educational development diploma.

In recent years, friends said, he had lived at various times in Wheatfield, Akron, Clarence Hollow, the Town of Tonawanda, Grand Island and Buffalo's Lovejoy section.

He worked as a technician with a cable television company before going overseas.

"He was a whiz with electronics," recalled one of his friends, Jared Matthews of North Tonawanda. "There are a lot of people who can take something apart, but Ben could put it back together and make it work."

Schuster enjoyed tinkering with and riding mopeds.

"He loved to see how far he could drive a moped," Matthews said. "Ben would drive long distances in the dead of winter, just to show up at somebody's house with a big smile on his face."

His brother, Davis, said, "Ben was the fun-loving uncle. I'll never forget walking into my kitchen and seeing my little son jumping off the top of the refrigerator. There was Ben on the floor, catching him."

Davis said his brother made many telephone calls to friends and family members from Iraq. He said he last talked to his brother Feb. 24, and found him in an uncharacteristically serious mood.

"He was in a pretty dangerous area . . outside Ramadi. He told me he was working in a guard tower and that he would have to open up the gate to let convoys into the camp," Davis said.

Schuster also told his brother he was fascinated by some of the customs and deep religious beliefs of the Iraqi people.

"Ben was very serious, very focused on what he had to do," Davis said.

Two days after that conversation, members of a military honor guard showed up at Davis' home to tell him his brother was dead.


e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com
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Micronaut
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re: A BRAVE, UNSELFISH HERO (Iraq vet memorial)

Postby Micronaut » Tue Mar 07, 2006 7:46 pm

Schuster enjoyed tinkering with and riding mopeds.

"He loved to see how far he could drive a moped," Matthews said. "Ben would drive long distances in the dead of winter, just to show up at somebody's house with a big smile on his face."



This is probably the saddest story I've ever posted. Do you realize how much you would have to LOVE mopeds to have it mentioned in your memoriam?? This guy is a moped hero, a US hero. Long distances in the dead of winter on a moped, tough as nails I bet.
Micronaut
Distinguished Rider
 
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2005 2:41 am
Location: Northeast


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