Countryside High School Student Council Faculty Adviser Chris Settle presents a plaque in memory of CHS graduate Nathaniel Schultz, who died serving in the Marines in Afghanistan.
CLEARWATER – Nathaniel Schultz joined the Marine Corps in June 2009, just weeks after graduating from Countryside High School.
In July, the 19-year-old shipped out to Afghanistan. And on August 21, 2010, he was killed by an improvised explosive device during a combat operation while serving in Helmand Province with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Almost five years after Schultz was killed in action, his alma mater honored him May 15 with a memorial ceremony and placement of a plaque at the school’s entrance in front of about 75 people, including friends and family.
Countryside’s marching band performed the Star-Spangled Banner to open the ceremony and the Dunedin High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps served as the color guard.
In the front row, Schultz’s mother, Lisa Naktin, three older sisters, Charlotte, Grace and Deanna Maguire, and two nieces, 8-month-old Natalia and 2-year-old Temperance, sat while Congressman Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, Countryside High School Principal Gary Schlereth and Student Council faculty adviser Chris Settle talked about Schultz’s achievements and impact.
“I want to convey the gratitude that this great nation is indebted to you,” Bilirakis said to Schultz’s family at the ceremony on May 15.
Schlereth also spoke of the sacrifice that Schultz and other soldiers made when they enlisted.
“We will continue to honor and remember him,” he said. “Nathaniel paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
During high school, Schultz worked at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch, helping troubled youths, an experience that he credited for encouraging him to join the Marines. Later, in Afghanistan, he would spend free time playing with young children and teaching them English
“To fight for righteous, individual freedom for myself and all children of God no matter where they were raised,” Schultz wrote in a questionnaire about why he enlisted in the Marines.
The youngest of his siblings, Schultz grew up outdoors – hunting, hiking, fishing and riding his skateboard. He took after his sisters, even though they were older. And friends and teachers described him as always trying to give back to his community.
Settle, citing a conversation he’d had with media specialist Pete Peterson, talked about how Schultz had always wanted to be a Marine. At 16, he’d enlisted, the earliest he was legally allowed.
Bilirakis also thanked others who had served in the armed services for their sacrifice.
“These are the true American heroes,” he said. “Nathaniel was a true American hero.”
Schultz’s plaque joins those of two other former Countryside High School students who died in action, Arturo Huerta-Cruz (class of 2003) and Jonathan Rossi (class of 2005). At the entrance to the school, a permanent plaque sponsored by the Student Government Association also honors all Countryside graduates, faculty and staff who have served or currently serve in the military.
“We wanted a permanent visual reminder of their service,” Settle said.
Bilirakis, who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said soldiers like Schultz remind people why the United States of America is the greatest country of the world. Their sacrifice, he said, should never be forgotten.
“In times of peace, sons bury their fathers,” he said. “In times of conflict, fathers bury their sons.”