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2012-03-22

Benjamin Schmidt & Texas values - bravery, resilience & vision

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Special to the Courier

During the past decade, our military men and women and their families have shown enormous character in the face of adversity. Sometimes we get a glimpse of this extraordinary character through a single act.

Texas residents should know the story of one of their native sons, Ben Schmidt. He was born in San Antonio and graduated from Alamo Heights High School.

Ben attended Texas Christian University (TCU) for a year and a half and left school to join the United States Marine Corps. As a sniper on his first tour in Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Schmidt was recognized for valor for taking decisive action in killing a Taliban fighter, an action that saved the lives of his fellow Marines.

Before he deployed on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, Ben drew up a will directing that his serviceman's life insurance payment endow a scholarship for a graduate student in history at TCU. To be considered for this scholarship, Schmidt specified that applicants must have at least a 3.0 grade point average and a strong record of community service. His father, David Schmidt, a prominent member of the Texas medical community and team physician for the San Antonio Spurs, said of his son, "Benjamin wanted to invest in someone who would be a success."

In the moment that required him to contemplate his mortality and the fact that he was again going into harm's way, Ben thought about giving meaning to his sacrifice by helping another person to realize his own dream, which was to become a history teacher.

Ben Schmidt was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 6, 2011. The $200,000 scholarship at TCU created from his life insurance has been matched by a $200,000 contribution from his father. As word has gotten out about this great young Texan's generosity, others have voluntarily added to the scholarship fund, which now stands at $484,000.

I recently nominated Ben Schmidt for the "Citizen Service Before Self" award, which is sponsored by Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who are charged with "recognizing and honoring ordinary Americans who become extraordinary through their indomitable courage and selflessness."

I am pleased that Ben Schmidt was one of 20 finalists for this prestigious award. As his father modestly said, "He was a good soldier and a good man."

In life and death, Ben Schmidt exhibited those qualities we treasure as Texans - bravery, resilience, and vision. His legacy of selflessness and valor will live on in those whose education is made possible through his scholarship and who are inspired by his story to give back to our country.