Sisters in Service and Family
POSTED ON: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 2:17 PM by MC2 Dana Legg
A name that resonates with many cadets of the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) is that of 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte. She served as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance officer in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and became the first female USAFA graduate killed by enemy action when she died of a roadside bomb attack on her way to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
In Schulte’s home state of Missouri are her family’s long-time friends, the Schroeder family. The eldest daughter, Abigail, was only 12 at the time of Schulte’s death in May 2009. It was a heartbreaking time for Abigail and her family, but it helped Abigail come to an important realization: she wanted to serve her country. In her final year at the U.S. Naval Academy, Abigail will soon meet her goal.
“Both of my daughters had military influences,” said Phil Schroeder, Abigail’s father. “However, it was a visit to see Roslyn’s memorial shrine which really affected Abby.”
Abigail saw Schulte’s sacrifice as a call to action.
“Her willingness to give her life made me realize I could be doing so much more,” Abigail said. “Her death really moved me.”
Through Abigail’s inspiration, her younger sister, Amelia, came into her own. Following her big sister’s lead, Amelia was admitted to the class of 2022 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, USNA’s biggest rival.
“It’s been a cool experience following in the footsteps of my sister,” Amelia said. “After watching her commit to the Naval Academy, I knew I wanted to serve too.”
Balancing the jam-packed days of a first class midshipman while looking out for her little sister a few hundred miles away might not be easy, but Abigail makes it a priority to do what she can to help her sister through her time in school.
“She basically followed my lead, attending a service academy, so I feel responsible for making sure she has the help she needs,” Abigail said. “Having my sister looking up to me and following my example motivates me to be better. Whatever I can do to help her succeed, I try to do it.”
Abigail knows that the first two years at a service academy can be rigorous. Though a student’s specific academic, military, and extra-curricular requirements may vary across the service academies, there is a universal expectation for the cadets or midshipmen to give their all as they prepare to receive their commission. Abigail, in her final year at USNA, is well-equipped to mentor Amelia, now in her second year at West Point.
“When I was a plebe and youngster I was a varsity athlete, so balancing that with the stress of doing well in classes was really tough,” Abigail said. “I woke up before class and lifted with my team, lifted again during lunch, and then practiced after classes until 6:30 p.m. each night. I did homework until around midnight, and then did it all over again each day. It was stressful, but now I can help my sister by showing her how I succeeded and it feels really good.”
Even with their busy schedules, the girls still make it a priority to connect several times a week; Abigail and Amelia try to live in the moment and lean on each other when they need it.
“My sister told me that she made the pistol team at West Point, she was one of five people who made the team out of more than 200 who tried out,” Abigail said. “I was so proud of her to hear that. We definitely have a friendly competition going, and it’s fun to motivate each other.”
Parents Stephanie and Phil, though nervous that their daughters may one day be a part of their nation’s wars, find comfort knowing their two girls have the memory of Schulte and other family and friends with military backgrounds.
“One grandfather is a retired Navy veteran, and the other an Army veteran,” Phil said. “Our neighbor and close friend is a retired Army colonel and he shared many of his experiences with the girls throughout the years.”
Stephanie made it clear that the responsibility of parenting two future service members isn’t taken lightly in their home.
“We have an enormous sense of pride, knowing that our two daughters are making a difference,” Stephanie said. “It [being deployed] is always on our minds and the mind of every parent of a service member. Daily prayers and intentions are said for our daughters and all service personnel.”
Extracurricular activities, like Amelia shooting for the pistol team, play a significant role for midshipmen and cadets as they often promote teamwork and instill a mental toughness which prepare the students for their future as junior officers. But, of all the service academy face-offs throughout the year, there is one that stands out above the others: the annual Army-Navy football game.
With one daughter at each school, the Schroeder parents were initially hung-up on how to support both girls equally. With a little help from a local tailor shop, Phil and Stephanie were able to work out something that equally favors both girls and their respective teams.
“My parents have this awesome jacket they had made for the game specifically,” Abigail said. “They each got an Army jacket and a Navy jacket, and they basically had them split down the middle so they can support us both equally. Mia [Amelia] and I love it.”
Though the Army-Navy game is a tradition dating back more than a century, it isn’t the only competition between academies. Air Force first battled Army on the gridiron in 1959, and Navy in 1960, continuing to meet Army in odd-numbered years and Navy in even-numbered years until 1972. Now, the three academies battle it out each year to determine the winner of the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Currently, Air Force holds the most wins among the three academies, holding the trophy for a total of 20 years.
From football games to summers at home between summer training sessions, the sisters have plenty to reminisce about. Amelia is already looking toward their future together in service.
“I could not be more proud of Abby,” Amelia said. “She continually amazes me every day. She is committed to service and prepared to become an officer. I can’t wait to be her first salute.”
Abigail hopes to earn a spot in the aviation community upon her commissioning as an Ensign in May 2020.
Phil and Stephanie are thrilled to see their girls loving and supporting each other as they prepare to become commissioned officers.
“They have each other’s backs,” Stephanie said. “We are so happy for them to pursue fulfilling careers that serve the larger good of the world and our nation. They are amazing young women.”
As the undergraduate college of our country's naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.