22 April 2019: Approximately 50 people showed up Monday night to show their support as the remains of a Navy officer being transported through Santa Barbara County arrived in Santa Maria.
The body of Navy Lt. Ryan Schwartz, 37, who reportedly died April 5 in Virginia, was transported from Los Angeles International Airport to a Santa Maria funeral home while being escorted by motorcycle riders from veterans groups.
Members of the Southern California Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion Riders and other groups accompanied the body along the route to Dudley-Hoffman Mortuary, Crematory and Memory Gardens on Stowell Road.
Despite the late hour, a patriotic crowd, including adults and children of all ages, showed up to hold flags for the arrival of the hearse and the sailor’s family.
“We just want to show the family that the community supports them is what we’re doing,” said Army veteran Robert Tolan Jr. from Welcome Home Military Heroes.
Earlier Monday night, motorcyclists escorting the hearse stopped in Carpinteria for fuel and a break before proceeding along the route with some new escorts joining the mission.
Since the plane was scheduled to land Monday afternoon, arrival on the Central Coast was not expected until after 9 p.m., organizers had warned those showing up to hold flags.
“I love seeing the community come up and support them,” Tolan said. “None of these people know who he is, but they want to support him.”
Robert Tolan Sr. from Welcome Home Military Heroes salutes as the hearse carrying the body of Navy Lt. Ryan Schwartz arrives at a Santa Maria mortuary. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
Typically, Welcome Home greets returning military members either stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base or those who consider the Central Coast home and return from military assignments. Organizers say they might have as many as three homecomings set for this week.
They also provide flag lines for sadder occasions like Monday’s arrival.
“We want to show his family honor, respect and gratitude from a grateful community,” organizers said as they alerted community members about Monday’s gathering.
Schwartz enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 14, 1999, and was commissioned an officer on Aug. 1, 2010.
“It is always a difficult time when you lose a member of our Navy family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ryan’s family and friends during this tragic time,” said Navy Cmdr. James Stockman, public affairs officer for Naval Education & Training Command.
A hearse carrying the remains of Navy Lt. Ryan Schwartz arrives in Santa Maria at approximately 9:30 p.m. Monday as about 50 people waiting hold flags. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
At the time of his death Schwartz worked as an operations officer assigned to the Center for Surface Combat Systems in Virginia.
Schwartz earned a reputation for having “exemplary service and loyalty to the Navy, supporting and mentoring his fellow sailors in every way he was able,” Patriot Guard Riders said in notice alerting members about Monday’s mission.
Schwartz was not listed among recent overseas casualties identified by the Defense Department.
Navy representatives referred questions about Schwartz’s cause of death to civilian law enforcement agencies in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who said they did not have any death investigations involving a victim with that name, and did not respond to a request for information.
Through his nearly two decades in military service, Schwartz earned a number of awards and decorations.
These include the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal.
Survivors include his wife, Allie, and two children.
On her Facebook page, his wife said graveside services were planned for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Oak Hill Cemetery, 2560 Baseline Ave., in Solvang.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made in the name of Navy Lt. Ryan Schwartz to the Adaptive Sports Foundation.
News article written and posted by Noozhawk: Naval Officer’s Remains Escorted Through Santa Barbara CountyNaval Officer’s Remains Escorted Through Santa Barbara CountyNaval Officer’s Remains Escorted Through Santa Barbara County