The Putnam Examiner

Luke Rathschmidt, Motivation Behind United for the Troops, Dies at 38

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Luke Rathschmidt

Luke Rathschmidt, the inspiration behind the Putnam County-based nonprofit charity United for the Troops, died May 18 from an accidental fall while on vacation at Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne Division was 38.

Born Jan. 28, 1986, to James Rathschmidt and René Skelly, Luke is survived by his wife, Tracy Hascup, and their children, Jaelynn and Brandt, along with numerous other family, friends and community members. United for the Troops was created as a result of requests Luke made to his parents (James and wife Pat) while deployed, explaining that the everyday amenities of home were not provided by the military. Luke, while sharing gifts he was receiving from James and Pat with his peers, explained that for them, “it’s not the same as getting your own.”

“His time in the armed services was a significant chapter in his life and it shaped the man he became,” his obituary noted.

The charity gained immediate traction upon its launch in Nov. 2008, and more than 30,000 care packages have been sent to active service members to date.

“United for the Troops became an organization within weeks, collecting anything and everything from any source possible to send to our troops. During the holiday season, we made an extra effort to ramp up our gift giving and rallied our community to help ‘Operation Defending The Holidays’ where our goal was to send out 200 packages by December 20, 2007,” the nonprofit website reads.

The goal doubled, as 400 packages were distributed to troops overseas and more than $6,000 was collected during the initial operation — ensuring that the organization was set to stay for the long run.

Food, such as cookies and other various snacks, as well as toiletries and clothing are provided to military personnel deployed across the world.

As of May 27, a GoFundMe created to help financially assist Luke’s family has reached $90,540 out of a $500,000 goal.

“Luke’s life was a testament to the power of kindness and the strength of familial bonds. His legacy is one of compassion, camaraderie, and an unwavering commitment to those he held dear,” the obituary concluded.

New York State Senator Peter Harckham (D/Lewisboro) paid tribute to Luke on social media.

“My condolences to the family and friends of Luke Rathschmidt, who tragically passed away over the weekend. Luke was an upstanding member of his community, and a veteran who bravely served our country. He will be dearly missed,” Harckham stated.

A Mass of Catholic Burial was celebrated May 25, led by his beloved Uncle, Fr. Jack Rathschmidt. Interment with military honors followed at Ballard Barrett Cemetery in Mahopac Falls.

This article was updated on May 3 to more clearly state Luke Rathschmidt’s familial background. 

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