EDMOND — Friends and family said goodbye Thursday to a barrel-chested soldier who charmed his squad mates as he led them in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Rex L. Schad, 26, of Edmond, died March 11 in Afghanistan when he was shot by an Afghan police officer who fired on a group of fellow officers and U.S. soldiers. The shooter also was killed in the attack, one of a series of insider attacks that have frustrated U.S. military efforts to train Afghan soldiers and police.
During Schad's funeral Thursday at LifeChurch in Edmond, his platoon leader told of the love and respect Schad earned as a squad leader.
Lt. David Swanson, of Yukon, said he hit it off with Schad when he was assigned to the platoon. They had an Oklahoma connection and much in common.
When Swanson introduced himself to Schad, Schad put Swanson's number in his cellphone but not his name. He erased the previous lieutenant's number and put Swanson's in its place under platoon leader, sending Swanson the message that officers come and go.
“He made it clear that I was a rookie lieutenant in his platoon,” Swanson said.
The two became friends, and Swanson eventually earned a permanent spot in Schad's cellphone. Swanson said the two planned to join the Army Rangers together and hoped to serve with each other again.
“Rex was an absolute rock star in his chosen profession,” Swanson said. “He was the best squad leader in the division.”
Several friends and family members who spoke at Schad's funeral Thursday earned laughs from those in attendance as they told stories about him.
His uncle, Peter Whipple, said the service was appropriate for a lighthearted young man.
“I don't think he'd want us to be sad, sober and too weak today,” Whipple said. “He'd want us to celebrate his life.”
Schad's fiancee, Ana Sabrina Carmona, read some of the vows she never got to say to Schad. They planned on marrying after he returned.
After the service, Schad's family members were presented with several of the honors he earned in Afghanistan, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.
Family friend George Johnson said Schad understood what it meant to serve. He came from a military family and took the idea of serving his country seriously. He knew he might have to give his life for his country.
“We talk about sacrifice a lot in this world today,” Johnson said. “But what we don't talk about is the patriotism it takes to make the ultimate sacrifice.”