‘His best at all times’: Forest Park community salutes fallen Navy SEAL
CRYSTAL FALLS — The Forest Park School District has officially dedicated its new weight room after a 1997 graduate and U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Iraq in April 2007.
U.S Navy Senior Chief Mike Day was among those who came to Crystal Falls for the ceremony honoring Clark Schwedler.
As Day spoke to the large crowd in the Eddie Chambers Memorial Gymnasium Friday, he remarked how many Navy SEALs come from places like Crystal Falls. “This place, this community, this town is what made Clark, and probably a lot of you here helped define why he became the person he became,” Day said. “There’s five feet of snow outside, it’s cold outside, and there’s hard working people all over the community from what I can tell. People from places like this have more grit or resilience, that gives them a little extra desire, and that’s a huge part of being a Navy SEAL.”
Joseph Clark Schwedler was born May 1, 1979, in Iron Mountain, to C. Joseph and Susan Schwedler of Crystal Falls. Known as Clark, he grew up in Crystal Falls with an older sister, Kate, and younger brother, Tom.
He was involved in three sports throughout his four years at Forest Park High School, plus student council and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where he and his family were members.
After graduating in 1997, he went to Michigan State University, participating in a competitive rowing crew, a physically demanding and time-consuming sport.
“He never did anything because it was easy,” said Kurt Anderson, the Forest Park school representative for the dedication committee.
After three years at MSU and about a year working in downhill skiing in Colorado, Schwedler enlisted in the Navy in 2002. He completed basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station, then graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, Calif., in 2004.
He reported to SEAL Team 4 in Virginia Beach, Va., then did two combat deployments to Iraq. During his second tour in 2006 and 2007, Clark was in Fallujah as a sniper, team leader and combat advisor to the Iraqi Army.
In the early morning hours of April 6, 2007, Schwedler and his team made a pre-dawn raid on a home in Ibrahim Ali, about 10 miles northwest of Fallujah, that was occupied by a small but heavily armed group of insurgents and foreign fighters.
The primary target was an individual thought responsible for downing a U.S Marine medical helicopter a few months earlier, killing seven U.S. servicemen and women.
Entering the home, Schwedler was killed and two other SEALS were injured. “Clark’s fearlessness that night as heavy machine gun fire erupted
around him and the selfless sacrifice he made to keep his teammates safe, defined him as the hero he was,” according to a statement by Schwedler’s SEAL Team 4 teammates.
He received the Bronze Star with valor, along with a Purple Heart.
His SEAL Team 4 members, who were like brothers to him, said in a statement, “Clark will always be remembered in the Naval Special Warfare community as a hardworking, dedicated and loving teammate. Clark embodied what it means to be a SEAL. Hopefully his legacy will inspire others to dream big, set impossible goals and never stop working towards achieving them. We were honored to have known him and served with him.”
Day noted that he was with Clark the day he was fatally wounded in action, saying “When I found Clark, he had a smile on his face, even at the worst moment, he still found a way to smile.”
Said Anderson, “The mental toughness Clark had and his willingness to go after difficult goals, it was everything in his life.”
It’s why Anderson believes it was right for Forest Park to name the weight room in Schwedler’s honor. Hopefully it will motivate students, alumni or community members who use the facility.
“He lived his life to push the limits, to test himself and to push others to achieve those goals. If you talk to his high school coaches, teachers and teammates, they would all say the same thing — that he worked hard at everything he did and gave his best effort at all times.”
Anderson added, “If you spent any amount of time talking to anyone who knew Clark, they would say that he had an infectious smile and way about him, that everyone loved. He left his mark on everyone that ever knew him, and treated people with genuine kindness. I would challenge anyone to find someone who had a bad word to say about him.”
Clark’s sister Kate Kokotovich spoke as well, saying that her entire family feels honored. “On behalf of my parents and my brother Tom, we’d like to thank everyone involved in this wonderful ceremony. Clark is loved and looked up to, by many people, some who never knew him, he would be humbled and very proud if he were here today,” said Kokotovich.
Matt “Sweets” McCarthy can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 222, or email@example.com.