A Wyoming Marine who was critically injured during a training exercise on Sept. 13 received a promotion to Lance Corporal while in the hospital recovering from his wounds.
On Sept. 13, Tagen Schmidt, 19, as well as 13 other Marines and a Navy sailor, were hospitalized after their amphibious assault vehicle hit a natural gas line and was set on fire during a training exercise in California.
Schmidt underwent skin grafts, lost thirty pounds and was on a ventilator to help him breathe due to the damage to his lungs. He stayed at the burn center at the University of California San Diego Hillcrest Hospital for treatment to his face, hands, shoulders and other parts of his body.
On Oct. 1, Schmidt got out of his hospital bed and was surprised with a promotion to Lance Corporal.
“His entire platoon came up for his pinning ceremony, which was amazing,” his mother, Tamby Clawson, told the Gillette News Record. “He didn’t know it was going to happen, but he was really honored that his entire platoon came to give his promotion.”
“He didn’t want to get up that day, but we finally (got him going),” Tagen’s father, Chad Schmidt, said. “When he rounded that corner and he saw all of his guys, you could see his chest just expand.”
“He was in so much damn pain walking down that hallway, but didn’t want to show it,” Chad Schmidt said. “Every ounce of him is that way. If he started something, he’s going to finish it.”
Despite being allowed to take a medical discharge from the Marine Corps, Schmidt is working on recovering to get back to his unit.
“Basically, his new job right now is to heal and recover,” Clawson said. “Whether it’s six months or a year from now, he’ll join his group wherever they may be. He could’ve taken a medical option out, but he doesn’t plan to do that. He’s going to stay a Marine.”
“The only thing he’s been down about was he just spent nine months training for his deployment and (the explosion happened) on the very last day of his training,” Chad Schmidt said. “Then, he was coming home on leave, then he was getting deployed.”
Tagen said he is “pissed off” because he won’t be able to serve and protect the United States until his body has recovered.
“One a scale of 1 out of 10, I’m a 10 of being pissed off about that,” he said. “I don’t think anything is going to pop off, like North Korea or something like that. But if something did and I wasn’t there, it would be devastating, because I wouldn’t be able to help them.”
Last week, Schmidt returned home to a crowd of roughly 200 people waiting for him at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport.