John Schneider honored with U.S. Capitol flag at Winesburg service

John Schneider honored with U.S. Capitol flag at Winesburg service
Dave Mast

U.S. Marine Capt. David Agha-Khan presents Matt and Andrea Schneider with a U.S. flag that flew over Capitol Hill on May 5. The Schneiders accepted the flag in honor of Matt’s father John, who was ill and could not attend the Memorial Day event.


“For the first time in many years, Winesburg veteran John Schneider was absent at Winesburg Cemetery on Memorial Day. Schneider has long been the driving force behind the event, and ill health prevented him from attending the service on Monday, May 31.

Yet while he was absent, he remained a big part of the service. This year it was decided to honor Schneider with a United States flag that flew high above the U.S. Capitol Building on May 5. A certificate that was presented along with the flag to Schneider’s son Matt and his wife Andrea during the service was presented at the request of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in recognition of Schneider’s many years of service to his country and community.

Matt Schneider said receiving the flag in honor of his father was far more emotional than he expected it would be.

“It’s a bigger honor than I thought and a lot more emotional,” Schneider said. “When you’re a son, you don’t really think about what this means to you until moments like this and the sacrifices that were made and what Dad means to other people.”

Schneider said having been around his father and living in Winesburg their whole lives, John was always around, always sharing old stories and simply being a dad. He said because of familiarity, those stories and those sacrifices tend to blend together. However, watching the flag being unfurled, folded and presented to him and his wife in honor of his father created a very emotional scenario.

“Sometimes it’s like, ‘Dad, I have heard all of these stories, and I don’t want to hear them again,’” Schneider said. “Then this type of honor occurs, and you come to realize how special Dad is and what he means to others and the things he has done to honor his country.”

Presenting the flag to the Schneiders was another special person in the event, that being Capt. David Agha-Khan, who is serving as captain in the United States Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

Agha-Khan, who also served as the keynote speaker, was honored to be able to present such a prestigious piece of memorabilia to honor John Schneider because it was Schneider who played a key role in him wanting to join the armed forces.

He said over the years he watched veterans like John Schneider and many others march down Main Street Winesburg to the cemetery, where a large crowd would always join the service.

“I remember thinking to myself back then that I wanted to be like them,” Agha-Khan said. “I want to be as proud as these guys are of putting on their hats and their uniforms and honoring this day.”

He said John Schneider’s commitment to serving the town of Winesburg and this ceremony will always be an inspiration. He called him a “hallmark,” investing himself fully into his community and into making this day one that would help people remember the sacrifices of many. He said Schneider’s many stories have a special place in his mind and help him better understand what it takes to serve this country.

“He was and is such a big part of why I joined the military,” Agha-Khan said. “It’s been such a unique part of my life to return and to sit and listen to him and hear his stories all over again.”

Agha-Khan also was honored to be the person sharing during an event that has grown to mean so much to him.

“I never thought I would be standing here 12 years later speaking, having grown up watching these Memorial Day services long ago,” Agha-Khan said. “They were always such beautiful, somber moments. I remember watching speakers come up here and thinking what an honor that must be.”

Agha-Khan spends much of his time in the Marine Corps training cadets to perfect some very difficult and tactical missions. One of his focal points is teaching cadets the tactic of breaching coverage structures that must be conquered before troops can move forward.

“It’s about learning to punch through obstacles,” Agha-Khan said of the tactic. “Those kids train knowing that 50% of them weren’t coming home if we ever had to do it for real. They were taught that, from the first day they entered school until the last day they left that unit. If it happened, half of them weren’t coming home. Myself and my staff had to look them in the eyes knowing that and ask them to push even harder so perhaps their training could make that number less. Because of their sacrifice, thousands of others could move on to the next objective.”

Much like those cadets, Agha-Khan said the service members who gave their lives for freedom made a similar commitment. He said reading the names of the fallen honors those who survive, and it is important to honor their memory.

In the shade of the service at the Winesburg Cemetery, Agha-Khan said it is inspiring not just to honor veterans on this day, but also to celebrate a community that is so invested in honoring them. He said Winesburg is a tight-knit community that is incredibly loyal to their nation, their veterans, those who are serving and the flag.

Emceeing the event was Matt Johnson, pastor at Zion Reform Church in Winesburg. He was joined by his two sons, Gus and Finn Johnson, who sang the Zac Brown Band song, “Dress Blues,” about the commitment and sacrifice those who serve may have to someday make.

The service vocalized what it takes to serve and spanned the time of an aging veteran to a young man still serving and the connection all those who serve have with one another.

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