Aug 29 (My Desert) INDIO — After learning last week that a Black Hawk helicopter had gone down in Afghanistan, killing all aboard, Indio resident Brian Schmidt immediately began trying to contact his son, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Suresh Krause.
Krause, 29, a Cathedral City High School graduate — and Black Hawk helicopter pilot — was in the eighth month of a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.
In the past, after a crash, casualty, or similar tragedy, it didn't take long for Krause to let his dad, and mom Suzette Krause- Schmidt, know he was safe.
"He usually always found a way to email and say he was all right," Schmidt said Tuesday.
But as the morning dragged into afternoon, Krause's email never came.
It wasn't until a neighbor called Schmidt at work that he knew something horrible had happened to his son.
"He said, 'You have a government vehicle in front of your home,'" Schmidt said.
When Schmidt asked if it looked like there were military personnel in the vehicle, the neighbor said yes.
As Schmidt drove the 20 minutes it took to get home, he hoped his neighbor had been mistaken.
But when he arrived, a chaplain, accompanied by another Army officer, greeted him.
"They brought me inside and told me what I already knew," Schmidt said.
Krause was killed in action on Aug. 16 while piloting a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
Krause, along with three other soldiers, two Navy SEALs, a Navy explosive ordinance disposal technician, three Afghan security forces, and one Afghan interpreter, died in the crash.
The Taliban has taken credit for shooting down the Black Hawk, though U.S. officials said initial reports indicate it was not shot down. According to an Associated Press story on Monday, the crash, which is still under investigation, happened during a firefight with insurgents. It is considered one of this war's deadliest air disasters.
Krause was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Col. Frank Tate, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, spoke of the brigade's mission during a deployment ceremony held last fall:
"Our touchstone will remain the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade motto: 'We fly for the troops … in the dark of night and the heat of day, in challenging weather over harsh terrain in hostile territory, always mitigating the risk and with the best maintained equipment in the Army. We fly for the troops til the fight on the ground is won.'"
'A patriot and a hero'
Krause was adopted by the Schmidts when he was 13 years old. His biological mother — Krause-Schmidt's sister, Yolette Abayasekara, was living in Sri Lanka at the time.
"Yolette wanted him to have a better life," Brian Schmidt said. "In Sri Lanka, they don't have the things we have here. It's a Third World country."
Krause came to the U.S. on Feb. 11, 1998. His adoption became official the following January.
He needed to get his U.S. citizenship in order to enter college.
"When you're adopted and you come to this country, you're null and void for a couple of years," Schmidt said.
The family contacted U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack's office, and within 45 days, Krause was in Los Angeles for his swearing-in as a U.S. citizen.
"She was very instrumental in him fulfilling his dreams," Schmidt said of the Palm Springs Republican.
Krause also received a Naval Academy nomination from the congresswoman, but chose instead to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
After graduation, he enlisted in the Army.
"He said, 'I've given it a lot of thought, and I've been given this opportunity to succeed and fulfill my dreams because of Mary Bono Mack. I have to repay what's been given to me,'" Schmidt said.
On Tuesday, Bono Mack called Krause's parents to offer her condolences. She asked if they would send her a photo of Krause that she could frame and keep on her desk in her Washington office.