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Much of Jonathan Schulze's anguish seemed to relate to combat in Ramadi in April 2004. Schulze, who carried a heavy machine gun, wrote his parents that 16 Marines, many of them close friends, had died in two afternoons of firefights and bombings. Twice he was wounded but didn't tell his parents, not wanting them to worry. He wrote them about dismembered bodies. About youth and combat and disillusionment. And about the bombs.
"I pray so much over here and ask God to keep me out of harm's way and to make it back home alive and in one piece," he wrote Jim and Marianne in May 2004. "I bet I easily pray over a dozen times a day and I always pray while I am on patrol as I am terrified of getting hit by an IED aka a bomb. Our vehicle elements and Marines on patrols are getting hit hard by these bombs the Iraqis plant all over and hide on the ground."
Schulze carried guilt that fellow Marines died. He wanted to return to Iraq to somehow redeem himself, said his father, who did three tours of duty in Vietnam.
Because of that, Schulze at first resisted counseling, Jim Schulze said: "Being a Marine, he was too proud to get help. They want to make you impervious of any emotion. And when you get out it's almost impossible to put it back the way it was."
When Schulze left the Marine Corps, he participated in military color guards, visited aging veterans in the state homes, helped anyone in need. He worked with his stepfather building houses. An unmarried father, Schulze bragged of adoration for his young daughter, Kaley Marie, on his MySpace website.
But the war always got in the way of a normal life.
Schulze was on an emotional roller coaster and couldn't get off, said his close Marine friend from Iraq, Eric Satersmoen, who with Schulze's stepbrothers described him as becoming uncharacteristically quiet.
"Lot of inner turmoil, lot of flashbacks, lot of nightmares," was how Jim Schulze described his son.
The Jan. 11 visit to the VA in St. Cloud came a few weeks after Jonathan Schulze waited for more than three hours at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, hoping to be admitted, Jim Schulze said. His son last saw a psychiatrist at the Minneapolis VA on Dec. 14 but someone there told him he couldn't be admitted for treatment until March, Jim Schulze said. They went to St. Cloud with the expectation that Jonathan could be admitted quicker.
Satersmoen and Travis Schulze think that Jonathan Schulze didn't intend to kill himself. They said that he was drunk and confused and speculate that he unintentionally blacked out before police arrived.
Secondary causes of death, said the Minnesota Regional Coroner's Office in Hastings, were post-traumatic stress disorder and acute and chronic alcoholism.
At the funeral in Prior Lake, Schulze lay in his Marine dress blues, two Purple Hearts and his other medals pinned to his tunic. Dozens of young men -- fellow Marines -- gathered in groups to tell stories. They called him Jonny. He was funny, they said. The life of the party.
Cold wind ripped across the cemetery in Stewart where he was buried. Veterans from the Hutchinson, Minn., VFW fired a three-volley salute. Travis Schulze, dressed in black, and Satersmoen, wearing Marine dress blues, removed the flag from the casket and folded it. Travis Schulze presented the flag to his father. And saluted him.
"He was a delayed casualty of the Iraq war," Jim Schulze said of Jonathan.
Kevin Giles 612-673-7707 firstname.lastname@example.org