ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Family members of the 13 service members killed in the Aug. 26, 2021, U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan say the government is lying to them.
A St. Charles County father tells FOX 2 he believes videos of their son’s final days and moments have been wiped clean.
Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz of Wentzville was one of the 13 killed that day. Nearly two years later, Mark Schmitz is still not sure what to believe about Jared’s death.
“To this day (I) don’t have an answer to whether or not my son dropped, felt no pain, and was just killed instantly, or he was one of these others,” Mark said.
Kelly Barnett, mother of Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, who was among those killed, says witnesses tell a much different story than the official account from the U.S. Defense Department about the heroes now known as the Freedom 13, who were said to have died in a suicide bombing.
“I was told to my face he died on impact. That’s not true,” Barnett said.
She was speaking at a public hearing near San Diego on Monday, hosted by Republican California Congressman Darrell Issa, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is investigating the Afghanistan evacuation.
“Others have told us of things like a bullet found inside their loved ones when, in fact, they were told it was a bomb,” Issa said.
“It is like a knife in the heart,” said Christy Shamblin, describing the Biden administration’s claim that the evacuation was a success.
Shamblin is the mother-in-law of Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, who was also killed.
“A lot of the guys had their GoPro cameras on their helmets,” Mark Schmitz told FOX 2. “The SD (memory) cards have been taken. Those that were returned were wiped; completely cleared out. Why would you do that?”
Though Schmitz could not make the California hearing, he has recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with Freedom 13 families to meet with congressional leaders and says he may soon be called to testify before the Foreign Affairs Committee.
A State Department report released in June that blamed the botched evacuation on both Presidents Trump and Biden was not enough. Biden was in office at the time, not Trump.
“They turn around and spit in our face by blaming everything on Trump. There’s absolutely no accountability whatsoever. They’re doing complete deflection to shade Biden from any fault and wrongdoing,” Schmitz said. “I don’t see why this is a partisan issue. This is our military. They protect all of us.”
The families won’t stop until they get the truth and history reflects the entire story of the Freedom 13, he said.