August 5, 1999 – September 12, 199
Micah Joseph Schindler
Micah Schindler enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard on March 2, 1999. He was a member of the 123 Air Control Squadron in Blue Ash Ohio. He went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas for basic training August 5, 1999.
During communication with family, as well as a number of personal journal entries, he complained of a persistent cough, fever, headache and nasal congestion. He made three visits to the sick clinic over the last couple weeks of his life. The last entry was Wednesday September 8, 1999, two days before his collapse. His main reason for that visit was a leg injury he sustained during the confidence course that day but according to his medical records, he told the PA that he had worsening symptoms of cough and congestion. His records also indicated he had fever and an elevated heart rate. He was started on an antibiotic, cough medication and told to continue with the Tylenol, Ibuprofen and the Sudafed he had been given at the previous visits. There were no restrictions on activity despite leaving for a 48-hour outdoor training event early the next morning.
The two-day outdoor training event would finish with a 5.8 mile march over reportedly rugged terrain then crossing a chest deep body of water which signified the end of the march. This exercise had been canceled for the previous two weeks due to the high outdoor temperatures but not on September 10, 1999, despite being two degrees higher. The Air Force was promoting a highly publicized change in training called “Warrior Week” that was geared towards making recruits more “battle ready”. This new training was due to begin October 1, 1999.
Statements made by his fellow recruits said Micah seemed to be in distress early into the march. He was sweating heavily, short of breath and seemed disoriented and weak. It was reported that he stated to TI’s that he was not feeling well and that he could not continue. He was told to “drink more water.” The TI told him that he used to be a medic so he could tell if someone was “faking.”
Micah informed the TI that he had been hydrating but instead of having him checked by a medic he was berated, threatened and forced to continue the march.
Near the end of the march, Micah was observed to be staggering, unable to carry his own weapon and needing to be supported just to walk. He was incoherent, with his head back, eyes rolling, marching in place and repeatedly mumbling chain of command. Fellow trainees frantically called for help but said TI’s were slow to respond. When they did approach Micah they threatened to punch him in the head for “faking” and then picked him up by his pant legs and dropped to the ground face first. He started to “low crawl” at which time two TI’s knelt on his back until he stopped moving then rolled him over onto his back where he lay until the medics arrived. Photos of the march were obtained through FOIA show Micah lying on the ground in full sun, fully clothed with no one rendering aid and no sense of urgency. The medics had two flight mates pick up his unconscious body and place him onto the back seat of a suburban that was being used as the medical transport vehicle.
There was no working air conditioner in the vehicle nor any basic life-saving equipment. Once loaded into the vehicle the medic attempted to arouse him by continuously eliciting a painful chest rub but instead Micah began having a seizure with bloody froth coming from his nose and mouth. With no equipment on hand to maintain his airway the decision was made to transport him to the closest fire station where there were paramedics. From the fire station Micah was transported to Wilford Hall Medical Center Emergency Room. After several unsuccessful attempts to intubate him, Micah went into cardiac arrest. An open thoracotomy (cutting open his chest) was performed. In the process one of his lungs was cut and needed to be surgically repaired in the OR.
After two Commander Directed Investigations, six people received disciplinary actions for their role in Micah’s death. Two Officers and three Non-Commissioned Officers received letters of reprimand in their duty file. One medic was charged with a Non-Judicial Article 15 for not properly assessing Micah during the meal break. One of the Officers was able to have his reprimand overturned and was then promoted to full Colonel. That officer has since written a book about Micah, our family’s role in manipulating public opinion and how he was the real victim in this tragic event.
While in surgery the emergency room physician called and left a message on our home answering machine. He said Micah was severely ill and that we should contact the hospital as soon as possible. We heard the message about an hour later and spoke with the doctor in charge of his care. He explained that Micah had arrived at the ER with a core temperature greater than 108, that he had suffered a heatstroke and was now on life support. He asked if we had the financial means to fly to Texas as soon as possible as Micah was gravely ill and that death likely imminent. Approximately an hour later we received our first call from an officer from Lackland AFB. He said that it was unclear about what exactly happened to Micah during the march as he had not demonstrated any difficulty or made any complaints of being unwell during the march. He made reference during our call to knowing that my husband was a police lieutenant and that I was a critical care nurse but when I asked if a priest had been called for Micah he stated, “Oh we didn’t know he Catholic.” He advised that we immediately sign papers to “retire” Micah from active duty saying that if Micah were to survive he would be entitled to more benefits for his ongoing care as a veteran than he would as an active duty member.
Micah was pronounced brain dead on September 12 at 4:24pm. He was left on the ventilator until the morning of September 13 so that his viable organs could be donated. We asked for an autopsy, and they reluctantly agreed. His cause of death was listed as Anoxic Encephalopathy secondary to heatstroke. Later, in what we believe to be an attempt to blame Micah for his own death, the Air Force pushed the narrative that he had drank too much water (water intoxication) which ultimately caused his death.
Born September 26, 1980, Micah, the oldest of three, was a natural born entertainer. If he could make someone laugh, then he was happy.
He played trumpet in his high school marching band for three years, even performing in Russia in 1998. He loved all kinds of music, playing guitar, going to movies and doing impressions. Two months after graduating with honors from Roger Bacon High School, he went to Lackland AFB for basic training. Thirty-five days later he suffered a massive heatstroke at the water’s edge of the Medina Annex and never woke up again.
“Everyday people send us their sons and daughters and we send them home better people.” This was the last sentence of the speech Gen Farage gave moments before a memorial ceremony for Micah in San Antonio. It seemed to escape him that ours was going home in a box.