Naperville Marine Is Back, Full of Optimism Clayton Schmidt Feeling Good about U.S., Iraq Closing the Cultural Gap
Sanchez, Robert, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Robert Sanchez Daily Herald Staff Writer
Much has changed since U.S. Marine Clayton Schmidt was photographed offering crayons and candies to Iraqi children.
The bloody fighting in Fallujah and a prison abuse scandal have fueled anti-American sentiment in the months after the 23-year-old corporal's widely publicized gesture of good will.
But there has been one constant: Schmidt's faith that the cultural gap between U.S. troops and Iraqis can be closed.
"Good things are happening over there," he said. "Last year to this year, the difference is incredible."
Schmidt was back home in Naperville fewer than 30 minutes on Saturday when he said he'll return to Iraq "as many times as they want me to go back."
"I believe in what I am doing," he said. "I am doing what's asked of me. And it feels good. It feels good to be out there doing something for the country and helping (the Iraqi) people."
It's unknown whether Schmidt will return to Iraq or be stationed elsewhere. His family is just happy to have him home for the next 20 days.
In what was an emotional homecoming, Howard Schmidt, Clayton's father, picked up his son at the airport with a group of military veterans, who escorted the Schmidts home on a dozen motorcycles.
Friends and family members greeted the young soldier with loud cheers and big hugs as soon as he got out of the SUV. At one point, Clayton Schmidt, his older two brothers and younger sister all embraced and exchanged words.
"I told him that I love him, and I am glad he's home," said Linsay Schmidt, Clayton's 19-year-old sister. …