“On behalf of a grateful nation, may you find this new place of rest to be the home of honor you rightfully deserve.”
With those words, Brig. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, commanding general of the Army National Training Center and Fort Irwin, Calif., brought to a conclusion the unlikely saga of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who was lost to history for almost a century.
Martin was the featured speaker, July 9, 2015, at a burial and honors ceremony at Miramar National Cemetery for Army Sgt. Charles Schroeter. A Union cavalry veteran of the Civil War, Schroeter was awarded the nation’s highest honor for gallantry in an 1869 battle against Apaches during the Indian Wars. During 30 years of service, he also enlisted for five years in the Marine Corps.
“It’s hard to imagine a more difficult time to serve our country than when Sergeant Schroeter served,” Martin told those gathered to pay their respects. “It was a time when troops rode for miles on horseback or marched on foot…a world where disease and the environment were just as deadly, or more so, than the enemy….”
Schroeter was a German immigrant who had no family in the United States, and never married. Following his death in 1921 in San Diego, his remains were cremated at Greenwood Memorial Park. Never claimed, they were stored for 94 years with many others in an unmarked crypt.
“Today, we bring Sergeant Schroeter to a distinguished place of rest, a place he properly deserves,” Martin said. “By the time he passed, he had ventured across hostile country multiple times, as a Soldier, a Marine, a battle-scarred veteran, a loyal friend, and as an adopted American. From birth to death, he lived a life of duty in order to honor his country.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Sgt. Schroeter’s remains were buried in the cemetery’s Section 3, Grave 1052. A white, marble headstone inscribed with a gold Medal of Honor emblem marks the gravesite.
Some 400 veterans, active duty military, and members of the public attended the ceremony, along with Medal of Honor recipients Marine Col. Jay Vargas and Army Specialist 4 John Baca, both Vietnam War veterans. Troopers from the 11th Armored Cavalry served as Schroeter’s color guard, honor guard, and rifle squad.
Lt. Col. Felix Perez, commanding officer of the 8th Cavalry at Ft. Hood, Tex., led the funeral cortege, followed by the 40th Infantry Division band and the Final Honor horse-drawn hearse bearing Schroeter’s remains. Also participating were state officers of the Masonic Lodge, the Patriot Guard Riders, and U.S. 2nd Cavalry historic re-enactors.
The ceremony was sponsored by the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation. During his welcoming remarks, President and CEO Dennis A. Schoville said his organization “had an obligation to ensure that Sergeant Schroeter was accorded a proper, and honorable burial, among his comrades-in-arms here at Miramar National Cemetery.” He noted that Schroeter is the first Medal of Honor recipient to be buried at the cemetery.
For a member of the military, said Cemetery Director Douglas Ledbetter, “there is no higher recognition than to be awarded the Medal of Honor. For a national cemetery, there is no greater distinction than to be selected as the final resting place of a Medal of Honor recipient. Of the 3,500 recipients, only 400 are buried in VA cemeteries.”
By Bill Heard
Public Information Officer
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