Story by Kevin Gaddie on 04/18/2018The Gold Star parents of a deceased Airman were honored here April 13 at an Explosive Ordnance Disposal school graduation ceremony, the first time such an event has occurred.
Tim and Gail Schwartz received Gold Star lapel pins in honor of their son, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Schwartz, against the backdrop of the EOD Memorial Wall at the Kauffman EOD Training Complex. The wall is engraved with the names of more than 320 EOD warriors.
Schwartz, an EOD technician, died Jan. 5, 2012 when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Two of Matt's team members also died in the explosion. He nicknamed his team of bomb disarmers Team Tripwire,' according to his father.
"It's bittersweet," Tim said. "I'm very happy on this occasion for the families here who are celebrating their sons' and daughters' graduation. It's a solemn time for me and my wife, as we remember our son's life."
EOD was a major part of the 13-year veteran's life and what Matt wanted to do from day one, Tim said.
"His job involved very dangerous missions and he knew it, but he wanted to go," he said. "He actually begged to go on his last deployment."
The Traverse City, Michigan natives were at their vacation home in Miramar Beach when they received the news about their son, who was on his third Afghanistan deployment. He previously deployed three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Like those who went through 9-11, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing, when I got the phone call telling me Matt had been killed," Tim said. "We were on our way to the beach. It was a tremendous shock."
With the help of a friend, the Schwartzes, who were initially unaware of the Gold Star program, applied for the pins in 2017. Air Force EOD leadership scheduled them to receive the pins at the April ceremony.
Lt. Col. Andrew Clemmensen, 366th Training Squadron, Detachment 3 commander, presented the Gold Star pins.
"Matt continues to serve the EOD community in many ways," he said. "The spirit of Matt and all his comrades on the wall reminds us daily about the deadly seriousness of the EOD profession and the sacrifices our predecessors have made, to bring the light of freedom to dark places in the world."
For Gail, the significance of the ceremony was how his EOD family remembered Matt.
"We're proud or the work he did, and glad for how his fellow Airmen remember him," she said.
Tim shared his wife's sentiments.
"It makes us feel great to be here with Matt's brothers and sisters," he said. "They've made us feel like part of the family. It means a lot to us, as Gold Star parents."
The term Gold Star was first used in World War I, when families flew flags with blue stars representing each loved one fighting in a war or conflict. If their service member was killed, the blue star was replaced with a gold star.
The Department of Defense presents immediate family members of fallen service members with a Gold Star flag or lapel pin.