Father of St. Louis Marine killed in Afghanistan withdrawal reacts to Marine sniper’s searing Capitol Hill testimony

LCpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, was one of 13 U.S. servicemembers killed in the suicide bombing outside the Kabul Airport during the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Father of St. Louis Marine killed in Afghanistan withdrawal reacts to Marine sniper’s searing...
Father of St. Louis Marine killed in Afghanistan withdrawal reacts to Marine sniper’s searing Capitol Hill testimony
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 6:51 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - For the first time in the year and a half since his son’s death, Mark Schmitz is finally learning more about what happened in the days and hours leading up to the worst day of his life.

His son, LCpl. Jared Schmitz, was killed on Aug. 26, 2021, when a suicide bomber detonated an I.E.D. near Abbey Gate at the Kabul Airport, killing 13 U.S. servicemembers and 170 Afghans and injuring countless more.

“This is the worst thing you can go through ever,” said Schmitz. “We’ve been screaming from the mountaintops since this all happened, and it’s falling on deaf ears in Washington. No one takes you seriously. Our kids weren’t just killed, they were murdered.”

Schmitz said he has been given very little information by the federal government related to the circumstances surrounding his son’s death. However, testimony given in front of a House Foreign Affairs Committee last week helped shine a light on some of the details he’s been missing, he said.

Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews testified for hours in front of the committee after surviving the attack despite losing an arm and his leg in the blast.

He testified intelligence officials had identified who they believed to be the suicide bomber outside the airport, conducting surveillance over the course of a few days.

Vargas-Andrews said around noon on Aug. 26, 2021, he and other Marines positioned in a tower saw a man in the crowd that matched the description of the suicide bomber provided by intelligence officers.

“The anomaly in the crowd, he was clean shaven and fit the description exactly traveling with an older gentleman,” Vargas-Andrews testified. “The individual was consistently and nervously looking up at our position in the crowd.”

The message was disseminated to the troops on the ground, he testified, and across their communication network.

“We passed along there was a potential threat and I.E.D. attack imminent,” he said. “This was as serious as it could get.”

His Battalion Commander came up to the tower, he testified, to look at the photo and video evidence collected on the suspected bomber.

“We asked him if we could shoot,” Vargas-Andrews testified. “Our Battalion Commander said, ‘I don’t know.’ Myself and my team leader asked very harshly, ‘well, who does because this is your responsibility, sir.’ He again replied he did not know but would find out. We received no update and never got our answer.”

When the bomb detonated, Vargas-Andrews said he was on the ground, attempting to help an Afghan translator and his family into the airport.

“A flash and a massive wave of pressure... I’m thrown 12 feet onto the ground but instantly knew what happened,” he said. “I opened my eyes to Marines dead or unconscious laying around me.”

He credited a fellow Marine with saving his life, using tourniquets to stop the bleeding from his arm, leg and stomach.

“When his direct commander above him responded, ‘I don’t know,’ that’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of,” Schmitz said. “What was this man even doing in that role, in that capacity at that time?”

The inability to make a decision, Schmitz said, likely resulted in the imminent deaths of his son and the other servicemembers on the ground below.

“Who the hell was this person?” he said. “Why, if he’s a suspected suicide bomber, why on earth would you want him walking around? I think that will be dealt with and looked into much more deeply.”

As testimony about the withdrawal continues, he’s hopeful for more accountability.

“There’s not been one single person that has had to admit fault or held accountable for anything that happened over there and that goes all the way to the top, with Biden and Bagram,” Schmitz said. “To this day I don’t believe he’s ever uttered our children’s names even once publicly. Two State of the Unions, skipped over it, it’s shameful, it’s quite disgusting, honestly.”

Schmitz said he remembers talking with Jared when he first arrived in Kabul and assumed duties along the wall of Abbey Gate, helping thousands of Afghans to safety.

“He told me he was exhausted, he thought they were going to die that very first day when they got out on the wall because the sheer desperation in these people’s eyes, their mannerisms, they’re fighting for their lives, if you get turned away they think they’re going to die from the Taliban and some of them did,” Schmitz said.

As he pushes to learn more about what happened, including his quest for surveillance video and other evidence from outside Abbey Gate, Schmitz is thankful people like Vargas-Andrews are willing to step forward.

“I think it’s the most heroic thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Not only to get up there and testify but to have to relive it all.”

“The withdraw was a catastrophe in my opinion,” Vargas-Andrews testified. “There was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence. The 11 Marines, one sailor and one solider murdered that day have not been answered for.”