A quiet fell over the room as a group of Dietrich Schmieman’s fellow Marines stood in a line facing their commanding officer.
The crowd hushed in silence as the roll call started. Each of the Marines answered — until Schmieman’s name was called.
“Sgt. Schmieman,” the call started. “Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman! Sgt. Dietrich Aaron Schmieman!”
As a 21-gun salute boomed outside, sniffles and sobs broke out among the 200 people gathered Saturday at Central Church in Richland.
Schmieman, a member of Special Operations Command, died with 14 other Marines and a Navy sailor when their KC-130 cargo plane crashed in a Mississippi soybean field as it was heading to Yuma, Ariz.
The memorial service was the final opportunity for the public to say goodbye to a friend, a brother and a member of the community.
He was seen off by a parade of American Legion riders holding a line of flags, friends from his church and school, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis — a retired Marine general.
As a young man, Dietrich was a fiercely independent person, who wanted to go his own way. Whatever his own thing was, he always did his best job.
Chris Lynch, a lifelong friend of Schmieman, described him as an extraordinary person, who put his family and friends first.
“As a young man, Dietrich was a fiercely independent person, who wanted to go his own way,” Lynch said. “Whatever his own thing was, he always did his best job.”
Lynch met his friend when they were students at Christ the King School. They lived near each other and shared a love of skiing.
Lynch described one trip Schmieman made home around Christmas, when they couldn’t find good skiing in Washington. This led to a several-hour trip into Oregon.
“It was more than an extreme sport to him. It was almost a religious experience,” Lynch said.
“It’s difficult to remember a time when there wasn’t a Dietrich. Many of us here are probably in the same boat,” he said. “We can’t conceive of a time or situation in our past, where Dietrich wasn’t there to help us, encourage us, cheer us up.”
Capt. Moises Navas, Schmieman’s commanding officer, said the Richland native was honorable, fun, smart and unselfish.
Navas shared a story about the sergeant’s commitment to completing a task. After losing a couple pieces of equipment, Schmieman promised he would find them.
And after searching for them during the course of the weekend, and the following day, he recovered them.
“That’s who Dietrich was, he made mistakes ... after he lost those pieces of equipment, he paid his dues,” he said. “He accepted it with a grin on his face, and that smile really assured you and everybody in the team that everything would be fine.”
Rev. Corey Smith, Schmieman’s youth pastor, said the youth had the same commitment to his Christian faith.
“I remember how kind and respectful he was. I mean he always had that glint in his eye,” Smith said.
On mission trips to the Crow reservation, he instantly became the piggyback champion, the pastor said. He was loved by the kids in the community and the ones he served with.
Schmieman’s ashes will be spread on Mount Rainier by his request.