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GAIL WHITE His patriotism is always out of the woodwork



Published: Fri, September 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Many of us have been digging our flags out of the attic and dusting off red, white and blue mementos to express our feelings of patriotism.

James Schmidt of North Lima has been expressing his patriotism for years -- and in a unique and special way.

From Memorial Day in May to Veterans Day in November, the front of Jim's Sharrott Road home becomes a commemoration to the great men and women who have served our country.

Standing nearly 5 feet tall, a silhouette woodcarving of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial graces the lawn.

Stops traffic: The striking pose of Marines raising the Stars and Stripes on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, has caused many a passer-by to slow down or even stop.

"People stop all the time," Jim's wife, Helen, says. "They take pictures."

Some even pull in the driveway to talk.

"The other day, I was sitting on the porch with my grandson," Jim smiles. "A man pulled in. I didn't recognize the car, so I told Joey, 'This is about Iwo Jima.'"

He was right. They sat and talked on Jim's front porch for quite a while.

A stranger who needed to talk and another who was eager to listen: a perfect example of the pure essence of the spirit of America.

During national holidays such as Flag Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, Jim adds to his personal memorial.

He lines 50 flags on either side of the Iwo Jima woodcarving. In the center, he places another woodcarving.

This one is of a soldier with his head bowed, kneeling next to a wreath.

The sight is so poignant that it brings tears to your eyes.

Though no national holiday is approaching, the soldier sits on the front lawn. Jim brought him out last Tuesday.

He's not sure when he will take him down.

Served in reserves: From 1948 to 1957, Jim served in the Naval Reserve. "I was on 24-hour alert during the Korean Conflict," he explains. "But I was never in active service."

There is a hint of regret in his voice. This patriot would have been proud to fight for his country.

He chose the Iwo Jima memorial because he had a cousin and several friends who served in World War II.

"I was just a child during World War II," Jim explains.

His cousin, Russ Phillips, a Youngstown native, was a POW for three years. Russ is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

"He pulled me aside several years before he died and told me everything that happened to him in the war," Jim remembers sadly. "His wife said it was the first time he had ever talked about it."

It is poignant memories such as this that drives Jim's passion.

Ironically, Jim has never visited the memorial that he has depicted so eloquently on his lawn.

"It has been his dream for so long," Helen says.

As a 50th wedding anniversary gift, their children planned to send their parents to Washington, D.C.

But the illness of one of the children, along with the recent terrorist attack, has thwarted their plans.

Though disappointed, Jim is not deterred.

Another carving: In fact, he may be adding another woodcarving to the front lawn.

As a volunteer firefighter for 31 years, Jim was deeply moved by the photo of the New York City firefighters lifting the flag atop the rubble of the World Trade Center.

"I've been thinking about it," he admits, pulling out a copy of the picture while explaining the intricacies of such a carving.

Soldiers, firefighters, flags ...

With simple pieces of wood, this patriot has created a touching memorial to pay tribute to the great defenders of our nation.

In that tribute, Jim has created a treasured blessing for every American that passes by the Schmidt home.

gwhite@vindy.com




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