Remembering Roslyn: Air Force officer killed in Afghanistan


People were everywhere you looked at Congregation Temple Israel on Memorial Day, seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the sanctuary, standing along the walls to the right and left of the pews, packed into the back breeze way, and spilling into the lobby. Outside, stretched across the front of the Creve Coeur synagogue, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, many dressed in motorcycle gear, stood quietly holding American flags. Nearby, an empty ultramarine blue U.S. Air Force bus sat parked.

On Memorial Day Monday, about 1,300 relatives, friends, U.S. military personnel and community members gathered to pay their respects and honor the memory of Air Force 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, 25, who was killed May 20 by a roadside bomb near Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the daughter of Robert and Susie Schulte of Ladue; the family has long belonged to Congregation Temple Israel and Roslyn Schulte was confirmed there.


“Memorial Day will never be the same,” said Rabbi Mark Shook, who presided over the 11 a.m. funeral service. “No one in this place now will ever take Memorial Day for granted again.

“Now we know that real people die in war. Now we know that people with loving parents die in war. Now we know that people we honor and respect die in war.”

By all accounts, Lt. Schulte was an amazing young woman who positively affected the lives of so many. Speaking from the pulpit at the funeral, her boyfriend, Capt. Bruce Cohn, an Air Force pilot stationed in Honolulu, spoke of all the joy she brought him and others and how she taught him what unconditional love is all about. He revealed that he planned to ask her to marry him after her return from deployment in August. In an example of her thoughtfulness and desire to take care of others, Cohn said she sent him care packages from Afghanistan instead of the other way around.

“I told her I loved her every single day and she told me that, too. . . I hope to live the rest of my life to meet her expectations,” he said.

U.S. Army Col. Pamela L. Martis, who wrote a letter to the family expressing her condolences, said she got to know Lt. Schulte when she arrived in Afghanistan and “was immediately impressed with her spirit and positive attitude.”

“1st Lt. Schulte was a humble and caring person who made those around her feel they could do anything they set their minds to,” said Martis. “She was beautiful, inside and out, and you have every right to be proud of her commitment, dedication and service to our nation for the cause of freedom. Roz epitomized selfless service in all she did. Her caring and quiet professionalism was such an inspiration to those around her.”

From Ladue to Kabul

Born on March 18, 1984, Lt. Schulte was named for her maternal grandmother, Roslyn Littmann, who, along with her husband, Ellis, was killed in a fire in 1980 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Roslyn and Ellis Littmann lived in Clayton and were active members of the St. Louis Jewish community. Lt. Schulte’s great-great-great grandfather, Max Littmann, was one of the founding members of Temple Israel, said Rabbi Shook.

Lt. Schulte attended Conway Elementary School, spent a year at Ladue Middle School, and attended John Burroughs School, graduating in 2002. She continued on to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she majored in political science, interned for former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo. and captained the lacrosse team. She became a group commander, one of the Academy’s highest positions on campus, and was responsible for overseeing 1,000 cadets.

After graduating from the Air Force Academy with academic and military honors in 2006, she was commissioned as a military intelligence officer and spent 10 months at intelligence school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. In April 2007, she was assigned as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance officer to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces Command, at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. She reported to Afghanistan in February 2009 as part of the Combined Security Transition Command, and worked with Afghan military officials, teaching them how to gather and interpret intelligence.

Lt. Schulte was killed while traveling in a convoy from Camp Eggers, Kabul to Bagram Airfield to participate in an intelligence sharing conference. Also killed was Shawn Pines, a 51-year-old contractor and father of three from Texas, who, coincidentally was also Jewish, said Lt. Schulte’s mother, Susie.

Lt. Schulte’s death was the first combat-related death of a female graduate since the Academy opened to women in 1976, the school reported.

A Natural Born Leader

Lt. Schulte seemed to know what she wanted at a very young age and would not be deterred.

“Roz, the beautiful force to be reckoned with has come home,” said Rabbi Shook. “A beautiful force to be reckoned with — that’s how she was described in nursery school,” he added.

Indeed, her pre-school teacher at Ladue Early Childcare Center recalled how at the age of three, little Roslyn, who was known to come to the school in some “unusual” outfits (“she clearly dressed herself,” the teacher noted), refused to wear socks.

“She was a wonderful child, but she never wore socks, which was OK with us except when it was winter and we were going outside to play in the snow,” recalled the teacher, Melissa Krause, of Olivette. “We told her she had a choice — either put on socks or sit in the director’s office while the rest of us went outside to play in the snow. And so Roz made the choice to sit in the director’s office.”

Susie Schulte smiled at the recollection about her daughter’s refusal to wear socks, adding that at the age of 6, she even threatened not to wear them on a family ski trip. “Roz was charming, wonderful, caring, loving, determined, very skilled, articulate — you name the adjective — and well, yes, maybe a little obstinate,” she said. “In saying these things, through this whole awful ordeal, the pride that we have is almost indescribable.”

Her parents said Lt. Schulte exhibited natural leadership skills at an early age, and developed an interest in flying as young as 12. “She loved to go to the airport and watch the 2 p.m. Air National Guard,” Susie Schulte said. “We joked that as a kid, she had seen Top Gun one too many times.”

As a teenager, Roslyn went to some summer camps to see what cadet life was like, her mother said, adding, “She wanted to be a fighter pilot.”

Lt. Schulte excelled both academically and athletically; the latter quality, her mother says, she inherited from her father. At Burroughs, she played field hockey, swam, was captain of the state championship lacrosse team and became an All-American lacrosse player.

“Roz really embraced challenges with her arms wide open,” said Allison Laycob, 25, who attended Burroughs with Lt. Schulte and just graduated from law school at Cornell University. “I never heard her say she was scared. She was always focused on the other person–asking me about me, about law school, about my life. She cared about people with all her heart. That’s a characteristic I want to model.”

A Fitting Tribute

At the funeral service on Monday, Lt. Schulte’s only sibling, Todd, told how his sister had called him at the end of her third year at the Academy to say she had decided to pursue military intelligence rather than aviation, which had been her longtime passion.

“She had come to the conclusion that she would be happier not flying, that she could better serve her country and do more good on another path,” said Todd Schulte, 28, who graduated from Harvard University and is now chief of staff to Rep. Scott Murphy, D-N.Y. “And I was set aback. At an institution that pushed so many of its best and brightest into the cockpit, here was my sister — only 20 — saying she saw happiness and service away from the glamorous path that for eight years she had sought with wholehearted focus. . . It was at that moment I realized she wasn’t a little sister anymore, but a woman of incredible wisdom. I admired her more than any other and I felt like a little brother in awe.

“Roz’s was a brilliant life worth celebrating, much too short,” he continued. “It is impossible to appropriately summarize the unparalleled spark she brought to an all-loving mother and father, a ferociously proud brother, a beloved boyfriend, a wonderful family and, for lack of a better word, an army of friends and fellow soldiers.”

Those who knew her spoke of her determination, her moral conviction and her generosity of spirit. “In addition to her professional competence, Lt. Schulte demonstrated exemplary humanitarian concern for the people of Afghanistan” as an active volunteer, organizing and distributing food, clothing and supplies to needy Afghan families, Rep. Murphy told the U.S. House of Representatives in paying tribute to Lt. Schulte’s death. Susie Schulte said she would often go to Target at her daughter’s request to buy shoes and other supplies to ship to Afghanistan.

Lt. Schulte was buried at New Mount Sinai Cemetery in Affton, next to her maternal grandmother for whom she was named. Rain came pouring down as hundreds of cars in the procession made their way to the cemetery, but it stopped in time for the burial, which was marked by a 21-gun salute and flyover by an Air Force C-17 transport. The same plane had transported about 40 of her co-workers from Hickam to the funeral; before it began, they presented family members with special leis, one of which was placed inside the grave. Lt. Schulte was buried with all of her medals, including the Bronze Star and a couple of childhood dolls.

Navy Lt. Shivan Sivalingam, Lt. Schulte’s closest friend at Camp Eggers, said she “was truly an exceptional person.”

“Usually, when you hear that about someone who just died, it’s almost always an exaggeration. With Roz, it’s not,” Sivalingam said after learning of Lt. Schulte’s death.

“She passed up on the Ivy leagues to go to the Air Force Academy. She qualified for state in five different sports in high school, was an all-American in college, a qualified pilot. She was always kind to others. She went out of her way to call her mom and dad two or three times a week every week she was here.

“I think it’s ironic that this is happening just shy of Memorial Day, but I hope you will think of her this day,” he added.

The Schulte family plans to establish a memorial in their daughter’s name at the Air Force Academy. Contributions can be made to it, or to a charity of your choice.