MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There’s no doubt that across the country Sunday, countless parishioners prayed for 12 Marines, missing since two helicopters collided off the coast of Hawaii Thursday.
One name on the list released by the Marine Corps over the weekend hit a little too close: Sgt. Adam Schoeller, 25, from Gardners, Cumberland County, a crew chief on one of the two helicopters.
At Country and Town Baptist Church in Mechanicsburg, the prayers flowed freely. This is the Schoeller family’s church.
“It’s at times of desperation like this that we hold out hope and we hold hope in our heart,” Pastor Bob Hylton told his congregation.
Hylton heard from Schoeller’s parents, Ralph and Laurie (who are now in Hawaii as the search continues), on Friday, hours after the crew went missing.
“It’s the kind of news that no military parent wants to get,” he said.
He should know: His son is active duty in the Navy. Hylton tried to comfort the Schoellers.
“There is a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, that we’re in this together,” Hylton said. “They’re not isolated and they’re not alone, that we’re there with them.”
The support structure here reaches back to Schoeller’s high school years.
“I remember when he talked about joining the Marines,” said James McCoy, the youth pastor at the church. “He was excited about it, really wanted to be a Marine. That was something he wanted to do.”
“It was no surprise when he said that he was going into the military. He was that type of a person,” said Steven Bernhard, who also works with youth there.
Bernhard added Schoeller epitomizes what the Marine Corps stands for.
“Service, dedication,” he said. “He was a wrestler, he was strong, strong character, strong in his faith.”
“They were doing their duty,” Hylton said. “They were doing their job.”
Schoeller married his wife, Samantha Wickel-Schoeller, on July 4 last year. The two live in Hawaii, where the Marine is stationed.
His family released a statement through a friend Sunday saying they remain optimistic. “We value all of the thoughts and prayers offered up on our behalf during this very difficult time,” the statement says.
It’s hard for members of the congregation to block out the what-if’s: “It just kind of tugs at your heart to realize that, you know, he may be gone forever,” McCoy said.
But in these pews, hope speaks louder.
“Each passing day, you are thinking maybe today’s the day,” Hylton said. “So we hold out hope.”
“And we pray for a miracle to happen and hope that he’s still alive,” said church member Jeff Speese.
“I mean, that’s the main thing,” said Bernhard. “We have hope.”