Senator wants soldier to receive proper honor
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Years ago, Allen Schmidt served with Doug Nichols in the 388th Medical Logistics Battalion in Hays.
So Schmidt, a retired colonel of the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, is going to do all he can to see that Nichols' son receives his due honor.
Chief Warrant Officer-2 Bryan Nichols, 31, who grew up in Hays, was one of the pilots aboard the U.S. Chinook helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan last weekend. There were 30 U.S. troops on board, and it was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the war in Afghanistan.
Bryan Nichols, the youngest of Doug and Cindy Nichols' four children, grew up in Hays and graduated from Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in 1998.
Bryan Nichols had been living in the Kansas City area, but his parents still live in the Hays area, near Palco.
Also aboard the chopper was another former Hays resident -- Chief Warrant Officer-4 David Carter, whose family now lives in Colorado.
The remains of the 30 U.S. troops arrived Tuesday in the United States in Dover, Del., and Nichols' parents were there.
Doug Nichols is keeping Schmidt, now a Kansas state senator who returned to his hometown of Hays to live after retiring from the military, informed of the timetable of his son's arrival back home.
Schmidt said Doug Nichols said his son's body tentatively is expected to arrive in Hays sometime early next week, and Schmidt said he wants to be there to "honor his arrival at the airport."
"We want to find out what time his body is coming in," Schmidt said. "I don't care what time it is. If I know (the time), I'm going to be out there."
The Fort Hays VFW Post and the Hays American Legion both are planning to be on-hand to give tribute to Nichols.
Schmidt said he was glad Nichols' parents were able to make it to Delaware when the bodies of the U.S. troops arrived.
"It's a very solemn ceremony," Schmidt said. "An officer meets every single soldier that comes off the plane. It's something of great respect."
Schmidt said he expects numerous tributaries and memorials for Bryan Nichols.
"They never know when they're going to get that call, when they are going to have to sacrifice with injuries or even their life," Schmidt said. "Like Bryan -- a young man with such a promising future, a stellar member of society."
Longtime friends Sgt. First Class Seth Kastle and Capt. Jamie Schwandt of the U.S. Army Reserves have set up a memorial fund for Bryan Nichols' 10-year-old son, Braydon.