Funeral services for Lt. Roslyn Schulte will be on Memorial Day
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 24, 2009 - When Air Force 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, a member of the U.S. intelligence team in Afghanistan, traversed the dangerous mountain roads, she usually did so side by side with a Navy colleague, Lt. Shivan Sivalingam.
“Roz and I usually traveled together on longer trips. We were almost always paired off together in the same vehicle,” Lt. Sivalingam wrote recently. “That’s how we wanted it, and how the mission planners did it.”
On Saturday, Lt. Sivalingam was making one of the longest trips of his life, and he was doing it alone. He was on his way back to the U.S. for the funeral of his friend, Roz Schulte, 25, the first female U.S. Air Force Academy graduate to be killed in action.
The Defense Department reported that Lt. Schulte, a Ladue native, was killed May 20 by a roadside bomb near Kabul in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been fighting al Qaeda since October 2001. She was part of a convoy, without Lt. Sivalingam, traveling from Camp Eggers, Kabul, to Bagram Airfield to participate in a Joint Task Force Intelligence Sharing Conference.
Services for Lt. Schulte will be Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember and honor those who died in service to the nation.
“I think it’s ironic that this happened just shy of Memorial Day, but I hope everyone will think of her this day,” Lt. Sivalingam said. “Roz was truly an exceptional person. Usually, when you hear that about someone who just died, it’s almost always exaggeration. With Roz, it’s not.”
The Road to Afghanistan
Lt. Schulte, born March 18, 1984, was named for her maternal grandmother, Roslyn Littman, who, along with her husband, Ellis, was killed in a fire in 1980 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
Lt. Schulte attended Conway Elementary School, then John Burroughs School, from which she graduated in 2002. She went to the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colo., receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2006, graduating with academic and military honors. She had served as captain of the lacrosse team in her senior year at the academy.
She completed her training at the intelligence school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, in April 2007, and was assigned as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations officer to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickham Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Lt. Schulte arrived in Afghanistan as part of the Combined Security Transition Command last February to teach Afghan military officials how to gather and interpret military intelligence. She was scheduled to end her tour of duty and return to the U.S. in August.
Burroughs and Lacrosse
Afghanistan was a long way from home for the former captain of the Burroughs lacrosse team.But Lt. Schulte was never very far from the hearts of those at Burroughs.
On the day she died, her former lacrosse team won its first major title, the Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse Championship, the equivalent of a state championship in lacrosse, beating Nerinx Hall 6-4. During a presentation of the championship plaque the next morning, Burroughs paused in silent remembrance of Roz Schulte, a driving force behind the team’s development. Her former coach said the moment just seemed right.
“Roz was integral, along with her father (Robert Schulte) to the fledgling lacrosse team at Burroughs,” said Margaret Clark, a dance teacher, who coached Lt. Schulte in lacrosse for four years. “She was always a leader and the backbone of our team; she got us going. She didn’t just play, she helped teach and coach.
“By Roz’s senior year, we went to a national tournament, and she was recognized nationally. She had pushed us and helped us win the whole tournament. Those girls had so much fun being coached by a dance teacher, which Roz’s dad always teased me about. She encouraged fun and helped us get better.”
In addition to being named an all-American in lacrosse, the only all-American from Burroughs, Lt. Schulte also excelled at field hockey and swimming, often competing in two sports at the same time.
Often competing alongside Lt. Schulte was one of her closest friends since middle school, Janie Mackey.
“We started Burroughs together and our friendship really took off,” said Mackey, who is a marketing coordinator for Dwell Magazine in San Francisco. “I think our love for athletics and being outside, playing sports and our competitive nature drew us together. Roz was just so strong, brilliant, inquisitive and driven,” Mackey said.
Her principal at Burroughs during her senior year, Andrew (Andy) Abbott, who will be the head of school at Burroughs next fall, said Lt. Schulte made a quick and lasting impression on him.
“We have a philosophy of kids being involved in academics, athletics, arts and activities, and she was involved in all of them,” Abbott said. “She was an outstanding student, one of the most outstanding athletes in her class and deeply involved in activities. I think she will be remembered most here for her very genuine kindness and affection for others and for life. She was bursting with enthusiasm.”
And she was focused.
“She was very passionate that she wanted to go to the Air Force and be an officer,” Abbott said.
She also wanted to have a bit of fun along the way. “We used to create all kinds of mischief,” Mackey said, recalling the time she and Lt. Schulte pushed their friend and neighbor, Tommy Schnuck, into his family’s swimming pool. He had all his clothes on. The deed created the need for escape.
“We locked ourselves in the pool house,” Mackey said. “Tommy took the hose and walked around the pool house for what seemed like hours. He finally gave up because he had to go inside and change. There was a long period of time after that when he was eyeing us, trying to figure out how he was going to get us back.”
Mackey, who opted for Middlebury College in Vermont after Burroughs, also said that her friend had long been drawn to the military life.
“We would watch ‘Top Gun’ over and over. At the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, she’d take photos, just like her dad (who is a great amateur photographer). She always loved the planes; she wanted to be a fighter pilot. And she wanted to do something honorable that had purpose and meaning. Those passions led her to look into the Air Force.”
Her love of James Bond, Mackey said, probably led her away from flying and to her Air Force specialty of intel and covert operations.
“It was always in her blood. It fit; she thrived there.”
Tribute from Officers, Brother
Her military superiors agreed. In a story posted by the Air Force, officers spoke of their loss.
"Losing Lieutenant Schulte has been a tragedy felt by everyone here and across the Air Force,” wrote Col. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, 613th Air Operations Center commander. “Our deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family of this heroic Airman. She was taken from us while serving her nation honorably, and the Airmen of the 613th Air and Space Operations Center will forever be proud of her."
"We are extremely saddened by the loss of Lieutenant Schulte," added Maj. Gen. Mike Hostage, Pacific Air Force vice commander. "She was a remarkable, devoted young officer. While this is a sad day for the Air Force, we will remember her for her bravery and the sacrifice she made for her country. Our thoughts and prayers are with Roslyn's family, friends and fellow Airmen during this difficult time."
Her service “was an example of her moral conviction,” said her brother, Todd Schulte, 28, who graduated from Harvard University and is now chief of staff to Rep. Scott Murphy, D-N.Y.
“Roz worked 14 hours a day and spent three more hours organizing a charity for Afghan refugees,” Todd Schulte said. “It’s a small solace that she was truly an inspiration. She was an incredibly impressive person, a brave soul and leader. She was the most fundamentally generous and kind person I knew.”
According to a CNN count, as of May 21, 680 Americans have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; this includes 10 Air Force Academy graduates. The Military Times reports a combined total of 4,963 American deaths in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
In addition to her many friends and her brother, Todd, Lt. Schulte is survived by her parents, Robert Schulte and Susie Littmann Schulte of Ladue. Susie Schulte is a past president of the U.S. Air Force Academy Parents Club of Metropolitan St. Louis. Lt. Schulte also leaves her boyfriend, Capt. Bruce Cohn, an Air Force pilot.
The Schulte family is planning to establish a memorial at the Air Force Academy in Lt. Schulte’s honor.
Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., with services beginning at 11 a.m., Monday, at Congregation Temple Israel, 1 Rabbi Alvan D. Rubin Drive, St Louis, Mo. 63141. Burial will be at New Mount Sinai Cemetery, 8430 Gravois Rd., St. Louis, Mo. 63123.
Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriterfor AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service.