(12/05/12) - For the third time in the last decade, a small town high school gym will be the site of a funeral for a Mid-Michigan soldier.
Army sergeant Jake Schlereth from Vassar died last week.
He wasn't killed in combat, but his death has still hit the community hard.
31-year-old Jake Schlereth graduated from Vassar High School in 1999, and that's where he will be remembered on Saturday.
"The town supports the military very well," said Paul Wojno, Vassar High principal.
In fact, yellow ribbons are still up in honor of Travis Mills, the Vassar native who lost all four limbs in combat and was welcomed home in October during homecoming week.
Many of those who lined the streets to cheer for Mills will most likely be at Vassar High School this weekend to pay their respects to Jake Schlereth. The Vassar High graduate served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has been stationed in the US since last year. He was working at Fort Benning in Georgia on Nov. 27.
"He was at a meeting, got up from the meeting, collapsed, and they couldn't revive him, kind of ironic serving two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq and then coming home and having that happen to you," Wojno said.
The cause of death is still not known.
Schlereth is survived by his wife and a young son.
Wojno has been principal at Vassar High since 1992. He says it will be the third funeral at the school for a former graduate who died while serving in the military. Services were held for Dustin Shannon in 2002 and Christopher Eskelson in 2006.
"We are the biggest facility in town that could hold the amount of people that we are expecting," he said.
Judy Adams, of Vassar, is with the Yellow Ribbon Guard, which participates in a variety of military programs. "We truly care about veterans," she said. "We should all take it personal, because our soldiers, they sacrifice everyday for us, they are away from their families and friends, they lose their lives for us, they come home with horrible injuries."
The funeral for Jake Schlereth will take place at Vassar High School starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.
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