MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Late last month, Roslyn Schulte was halfway through a tour of duty in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb struck her vehicle. She was an Air Force lieutenant and she became the first female graduate of the Air Force Academy ever to be killed by enemy action.
Matt Sepic of member station KWMU spoke with her friends and her family in St. Louis. And as he found, they all remember her as a born leader.
MATT SEPIC: John Pierson got word of Ros Schulte's death in an all-staff email. The high school English teacher was in his classroom with the school year winding down when, in an almost cinematic moment, his mind snapped back to that same place nearly eight years ago.
Mr. JOHN PIERSON (English Teacher, John Burroughs High School): I just had a stunning vision of remembering where she sat the morning of 9/11. Hearing this news, that memory struck me so much feeling, I couldn't help but feeling I was there with her at, in some ways, at the beginning of her end.
SEPIC: It's the last day of exams here at Burroughs High School near St. Louis. The students leaving for summer break are too young to have known Ros Schulte. But to the teachers, she is unforgettable: a star lacrosse player eager to help a new coach, an articulate, fierce classroom debater.
While 9/11 drew many young people to the military, Pierson says, for Ros, the attacks merely brought in to sharp focus her longstanding sense of place in a world beyond the suburbs.
Mr. PIERSON: Her sense of living her own life was fully wrapped up in her sense of service to others. It wasn't for her a conflict.
SEPIC: In her short life, Ros Schulte seldom strayed from a trajectory set early on. As a child, the F15s that flew practice maneuvers over St. Louis fascinated her. Friend Allison Lacobs(ph) says Ros was never shy about sharing this passion, even with other teenaged girls.
Ms. ALLISON LACOBS: Ros would bring over her toy plane collection, which at the time I thought was so ridiculous.
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Ms. LACOBS: So we would make salad, and order pizza, and play with planes and watch "Top Gun" over and over again. And I was, like, Ros, I can't handle this. But it's the first time I really realized, like, wow, she really, you know, is doing something she loves.
SEPIC: In 2002, the young woman, who friends say, had an almost enviable lag of teenaged angst, walked confidently into the Air Force Academy with the hopes of becoming a fighter pilot. But her dad, Robert Schulte, says even that wasn't exciting enough for Ros.
Mr. ROBERT SCHULTE: She said things to me like, these people are very bored. They love to fly but they don't fly very much. And they're so bored, I just can't do that every day. It's not for me. I want to do something where every day, you know, I'm making a difference.
SEPIC: Ros chose military intelligence work over flying planes, but aviation remained in her life. She fell in love with an Air Force cargo pilot Captain Bruce Cohn while stationed in Hawaii. Cohn says even though Ros was five years younger, she drew him close with an emotional intelligence and maturity beyond her years.
Captain BRUCE COHN (Pilot, United States Air Force): I feel like she taught me how to listen to myself and be able to express to somebody that I really care about. And I knew that it was just a very good thing that we had.
SEPIC: Bruce Cohn says he's not really the traditional sort but he wanted to marry Ros and planned to ask her father for his blessing. Instead, the two men, whom Roslyn Schulte held most dear, met for the first time at the St. Louis Airport when her body arrived home from Afghanistan.
Robert Schulte, who's welcomed Bruce's family, still brags about his little girl, a young woman who brought a unique mix of energy and compassion to a war zone and lived life as if she knew she had just 25 years to do it.
For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic.
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MICHELE NORRIS, host:
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