Mid-Columbia bids mournful farewell to native son killed in the line of duty

Welcoming home a fallen Richland Marine

The procession for Marine Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman.
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The procession for Marine Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman.

Thousands of people lined up along Richland’s George Washington Way on Thursday evening, each with their own reason for enduring hours in the hot sun.

But they were all of one purpose: to honor a fallen Marine come home.

“It hit home this time,” Aaron Beasley said, awaiting the procession for Marine Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman, a Hanford High graduate who died July 10 in a plane crash. “We’re just paying our respects.”

Beasley, of Kennewick, was there with his wife and 1-year-old granddaughter, and he wasn’t alone speaking about respect, honor and duty.

Dee Lobsien of Kennewick attended with her husband, Joe, and their young grandchildren.

“We’re here teaching them like we were taught,” Dee said, with Joe adding, “We’ve got to teach them the price of freedom.”

Schmieman, a member of the Special Operations Command, died with 14 other Marines and a Navy sailor when their KC-130 cargo plane crashed in a Mississippi soybean field enroute to Yuma, Ariz.

His remains were returned to his family Thursday afternoon and were welcomed enroute to Richland with the honors due a fallen warrior.

His parents, Susan and Eric Schmieman, asked for privacy as they greeted his casket when it arrived at Bergstrom Aircraft at the Tri-Cities Airport.

From the airport, the procession wound through Pasco and to Einan’s at Sunset in Richland, with a detour along George Washington Way to give Schmieman a last tour of his hometown. It was his parents’ idea.

Local fire departments ensured he received proper honors along the way. The Pasco Fire Department draped a U.S. flag over Interstate 182 for the passing procession.

In Richland, it passed John Dam Plaza, where officials paused the weekly Live@5 celebration. The Live@5 crowd combined with those awaiting Schmieman to line both sides of the street. The procession, including a hearse, military vehicles, hundreds of motorcycles and an impressive array of police and fire vehicles, stopped at John Dam while the Marine Hymn played over loudspeakers. Schmieman was welcomed by his neighbors with hats in hand and hands over their hearts.

Schmieman’s death struck particularly deep for Ginny Dawson of Richland, a good friend of the fallen Marine’s mother, Susan.

“It’s absolutely the least we could do to honor him and the family,” Dawson said.

It also affected Shawna and Doug Durham of Kennewick, who have a son who planned to join the Army until an injury prevented him from enlisting.

“This kid could have been our kid,” Shawna said.

Stephanie Truax of Pasco was on hand in place of her husband, a 14-year Army veteran who is in Idaho on Fish and Wildlife business.

“We’re here with him in spirit,” he told her.

The Richland Fire Department and Benton County Fire District 2 welcomed the Schmieman procession to Einan’s at Sunset with a pair of fire engine ladders extended across the drive and a U.S. flag flying between them. Members of Future Marines from RSS Kennewick set up 180 additional flags in the cemetery in a somber show of respect.

Schmieman attended Christ the King School and Hanford High. He applied for several colleges, but enlisted in the Marines at 19 after months of research.

Always up for a physical challenge, he wanted to qualify for the elite Special Operations Command. He met the goal and was serving with the 2nd Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C., when he died.

The KC-130 cargo plane from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 — call sign “Yankee 72” — dropped off radar late in the afternoon July 10. Media reported a fiery wreck with two distinct crash sites, leading to speculation the plane broke up in mid-air. The cause is under investigation.

A celebration of Schmieman’s life and military honors is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Central Church, 1124 Stevens Drive, Richland. It is open to the public. At his request, his ashes will be spread on Mount Rainier.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell