The final two lines of poetry serves as a haunting reminder for the family of Trent Schmidt.
Schmidt, a Greenwood native, wrote poems to work through the dark and depressed periods of his life. “My Final Dream Prophesying Death” was a vision of his final moments, ending with, “A crash then wakes me suddenly… Eyes open! See concrete! I am dead.”
The tragic prescience of the words are difficult for his parents, Stephen and Wendy Schmidt, to read. Their son died Feb. 11, 2011, in a car accident.
“It’s eerie, because it’s right on target,” Stephen Schmidt said.
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To capture the life of their son Trent, Stephen and Wendy Schmidt have written a book telling the story of his life. Each parent reminisces about infancy, college, early adulthood and the end of his life.
They revisit his induction into the U.S. Army, and his time in Afghanistan. Those memories are interspersed with Trent Schmidt’s own writing, journal entries and poetry.
The book, titled “Sir, We Found Your Dog,” will stand as a tribute to the complicated life that Trent Schmidt lived.
“So, as one browses through the chapters of this volume, the reader will find a quilt of personal reminiscences and the amazing literary legacy left behind by someone whose life was cut too short,” Stephen Schmidt’s forward reads.
Trent Schmidt died in an automobile accident on State Road 37. He was driving the wrong way on the road when his car struck another vehicle. He was intoxicated at the time.
At the time of the accident, he was serving in the U.S. Army, where he was a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He had completed a tour of duty in Combat Outpost Charkh in Afghanistan shortly before his death and was back in Indiana on leave before reporting to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Stephen Schmidt had wanted to write a book about his son since immediately after his death. But the grief and trauma was too much.
“You don’t realize how much it affects you. Every time I made an attempt to start writing, it foundered,” he said.
But he never forgot about the project. His breakthrough came in 2014, when he was inspired to write about his own life. Working feverishly for the next four months, he wrote, “I Count My Life By Sabbaths.”
The experience of writing about his own life provided the momentum to start working on a book about his son.
“Sir, We Found Your Dog” goes through Trend Schmidt’s life moment by moment. Stephen Schmidt and Wendy Schmidt each give their own perspective for each section.
They also used Trent Schmidt’s thoughts about different times of his life.
“He left behind a huge trove of writing,” Stephen Schmidt said. “When I discovered all of his files, I was able to read through them and extract word-for-word about different things.”
But the centerpiece of the book is a collection of poetry that Trent Schmidt had penned throughout his life. The words offer a window into his conflicted psyche and the challenges he went through.
The Schmidts had always known their son was an introvert, preferring to be by himself more than out in a group. Depression was a struggle, and his poetry reflected that, Stephen Schmidt said.
“When he was get in these mental states, he would write. This poetry comes out of those periods of his life,” he said.
“Scars” juxtaposes the passing of seasons with the injuries inflicted throughout life, both physical, mental and emotional. The poem was read at Trent Schmidt’s funeral.
“A Settled Life from an Unsettled Mind” speaks to the solace that he found in his faith.
The title of the book comes from a conversation Stephen Schmidt had with his son going back to when he was a teenager. They would often watch spy films and movies about deep-covert operatives. That lifestyle intrigued Trent Schmidt, and he would often tease his mother by saying that one day, he’d have to disappear somewhere to protect his identity.
To let his parents know that he was OK, Trent and Stephen Schmidt worked out a code. If he had to disappear, he would have one of his military handlers call the family and say one line: “Sir, we found your dog.” Then, the Schmidts would know that wherever he was, Trent Schmidt was safe.
“This little agreement took place when he was 16, 17 years old. But then when he departed for Afghanistan, I said, ‘Do you know what the code is?’ and he still knew it,” Stephen Schmidt said.
In late September, Stephen and Wendy Schmidt attended a retreat for families who have had a child in the military who died. Both the Schmidts, as well as their 38-year-old daughter Tara, were able to meet and talk with others who have experienced their own tragic losses.
They had never participated in the program before in the six years since Trent Schmidt died, Wendy Schmidt said.
“It was just too hard to be in a room where everyone had that same deep sorrow,” she said.
For many of the families present, it was not combat that killed their children; it was post-traumatic stress disorder or actions stemming from it, Wendy Schmidt said.
The Schmidts feel that’s what led to their son’s death.
“You don’t know what trauma does to you psychologically, emotionally, physically,” Stephen Schmidt said. “He had a dark, introverted side to him, and he lost himself to that situation.”
“Sir, We Found Your Dog” will be released on Dec. 1. The Schmidts have pledged any sales of the book — as well those from Stephen Schmidt’s book “I Count My Life By Sabbaths” — help support their son’s dream of building a paved parking lot at Triumph Church in Greenwood, where both were pastors.
Memorial contributions from Trent Schmidt’s funeral helped create a fenced-in gravel lot at the church. The family would like to see the project finished.
“Trent’s dream as pastor was to have a paved parking lot at the church,” Stephen Schmidt said. “All of those proceeds from these books are dedicated to finish his dream.”
“Sir, We Found Your Dog” tells the story of Trent Schmidt’s life, told by his parents, Stephen and Wendy Schmidt, as well as through is own writing.
The book will be released Dec. 1. It can be purchased through Amazon, as well as through Next Century Publishing at nextcenturypublishing.com
Proceeds from the book, as well as from the sales of Stephen Schmidt’s book “I Count My Life By Sabbaths,” will go towards finishing a paving project at Triumph Church in Greenwood. Both Stephen and Trent Schmidt were pastors at the church, and the paving project was Trent Schmidt’s goal before he died in 2011.