Nathan J. Schuldheiss—May 2008 Shipment Honoree
In Remembrance of Nathan J. SchuldheissSource: by Linda Borg, The Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE — Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss was nothing if not well-prepared. In his will, written before he left for Iraq, the counterintelligence specialist left $1,000 for the bar tab at his funeral.
He also asked that his ashes be spread over the Gulf of Mexico, in international waters 3 miles out, because he was someone who didn’t belong to any one place.
Everyone expected to celebrate Nathan’s homecoming on Thanksgiving. But, on Thursday, Nathan and two other special agents were killed near the Balad Air Force Base in Iraq when an improvised explosive device burst next to their military vehicle.
Nathan Schuldheiss was 27 years old, a graduate of Roger Williams University School of Law and a civilian assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. His job was to ferret out insurgents who might pose a threat to the military men and women assigned to the region. During his five months in Iraq, the work done by Nathan Schuldheiss and his team led to the arrest of 13 insurgents.
Nathan was on his way to interview a group of informants when the bomb exploded, according to his father, Jeff Schuldheiss, who lives in Newport, where he runs a bed-and-breakfast.
“He volunteered to go to Iraq,” Jeff Schuldheiss said yesterday. “His boss said, ‘You don’t have to go.’ But he had this calling. He couldn’t shake it. He told his mom, ‘If anything happens, remember, I had a full life.’ ”
Nathan was a natural leader, his father said, someone whose dreams were writ large. He talked about pursuing a career with the CIA or the FBI and joked about running one of those organizations one day. But he also talked about sailing around the world and opening a club with his friends.
“He was the consummate gentleman and smart aleck when we needed some humor,” a special agent wrote on a Web site called The Officer Down Memorial Page. “I will always remember his mischievous smile and his grace.”
Robert Waterman, a professor of political science at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., remembered Nathan as a student with remarkable self-confidence who was adept at making connections between political theory and contemporary politics.
“He always seemed to know what he was doing,” Waterman said. “You felt that something important would happen to him.”
Nathan was an adventurer, a young man with a real sense of wanderlust. As an Air Force brat, his family was always on the move and, as an adult, he visited all but 2 of the 50 states.
Jeff Schuldheiss said his son decided to work in counterintelligence because he knew that the experience would be invaluable and possibly life-changing.
“He was absolutely patriotic,” his father said. “He has a quote in his will that says something like, ‘War is not the worst of things. Even worse is the person who believes that there is nothing worth fighting for…’ ”
Despite his 27 years in the Air Force, Jeff Schuldheiss was completely unprepared for the knock at the door Thursday, when two uniformed Air Force officers informed him about their sorrow over the “untimely death of your son.”
“It didn’t click,” he said. “They’re not coming for him. No. It can’t be. It’s absolutely a mistake. This isn’t right.”
Schuldheiss never once considered that his son wouldn’t return from Iraq because Nathan was always so dedicated and well-equipped and determined to finish whatever he set out to do.
“I’m 53 years old and I know that not everybody is the same as the next person,” his father said. “There are some people who are the leaders, the coaches, the people who continue to get better. Nate was a shooting star who burned so brightly.”
Nathan, the wanderer, will be remembered as he lived. A funeral service will be held in Colorado, where his mother, Sarah Conlon, lives.
His gravestone will be placed in Spokane, next to his maternal grandmother’s grave.
And, in a couple of weeks, his ashes will be spread over the Gulf of Mexico, where he loved to sail.
SPECIAL AGENT NATHAN SCHULDHEISS
Special Agent (SA) Nathan Schuldheiss graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington in 2002 with a degree in Political Science. He went on to attend Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island where he was awarded his Juris Doctorate in 2005. While attending Law School, Special Agent Schuldheiss was awarded a Legal Fellowship in Clarendon Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn, London, England. In addition, Special Agent Schuldheiss also served as a legal intern for the Spokane County Superior Court, Spokane Washington.
In September 2005, Special Agent Schuldheiss was hired by the United States Air Force and selected to attend the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). In March 2006, he successfully completed the special investigators course and was credentialed and certified as a Federal Agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Special Agent Schuldheiss was subsequently assigned to AFOSI Detachment 204, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
In May 2007, Special Agent Schuldheiss volunteered and was deployed to the AFOSI Expeditionary Detachment 2411, Balad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this time, Special Agent Schuldheiss was chosen above his peers as Civilian Special Agent of the Quarter for July – September 2007.
On 1 November 2007, Special Agent Schuldheiss was killed when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Special Agent Schuldheiss was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Defense of Freedom Medal.