BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Friends and loved ones gathered Wednesday to give a final salute to Army Sgt. Shaina Schmigel. Her funeral, with full military honors, was the final step in what has been an emotional farewell.
The 21-year-old soldier, a Medina High School graduate, was remembered as a spunky, fun-loving young woman who was rising quickly in the military. She had developed a passion for parachuting out of airplanes.
Rev. David Glassmire, pastor of the Ascension Parish Church in Batavia, said, “She loved to jump and I think she would say she lived to jump.”
She died in a parachute training exercise on May 30 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The community in Medina has stood with her family during this difficult time.
The 82nd Airborne paratrooper had made many friends in the military. She had also served in Iraq. A memory from one of those friends who went through basic training with Shaina was shared in a letter read by Shaina’s cousin, Mark Schmigel: “You were always smiling, even when it was pouring rain and we had to march miles and miles, nothing kept you down.”
Shaina’s sister Sheniqua was overcome with grief and couldn’t speak at the funeral. She had earlier written about her sister’s bravery and perseverance.
Shaina’s brother Matthew Scroger of Lackawanna had written of his sister: “You are so brave and courageous, always living for today, always on the edge of life, never letting anyone tell you it can’t be done, never backed down from what you wanted.”
The procession to the cemetery in Corfu was lined with people who were moved by Shaina’s untimely death and the service she provided to her country.
“There were many tears shed coming down Route 5,” said Beverly Terol, one of Shaina’s relatives. She noted there with children outside the Pembroke School with the flags, and people standing outside their houses.
“It’s joined everybody together, and is making us all appreciate how fortunate we are to live in this country.”
Corfu resident Robert Hein was drawn to the military funeral even though it didn’t personally know Shaina Schmigel.
“I only looked at her as a very enthusiastic young person that really wanted to move and do something for her country.”
Shaina was laid to rest at Evergreen Hill Cemetery. Before the ceremony, a friend she called “Doc,” a medic who served with her in Iraq, said, “If she did her job it had to be to a certain standard. She always tried to make sure it was done right. That beautiful smile she had every day…just seeing that smile brought your morale up.”
Some of the most moving words were in a letter by Shaina’s Army friend Nicole Collins Gravino. She wrote, “Rest in peace, sweet soldier. Your job is done. You served your country with pride and dignity, and are now free to be with the angels to fly high forever.”
Sergeant Schmigel’s death is still being investigated.