With 23 years of military service behind him, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Heintz wasn’t planning to slow down anytime soon.
“He was looking forward to serving long term in (Washington,) D.C.,” Debra Heintz said of her son. “He loved being in the military. He said there was such a camaraderie there. He had worked 20 years – why would he retire now?”
Heintz’s military career, and life, came to an abrupt and tragic end Saturday after a shooting accident at a Lexington County range. He was 44.
“We never knew what their attraction to the military was,” Debra said, referring to Michael and his brother, Russell. “They both ended up joining the National Guard when they got out of high school. He and his brother – they kind of did things together their whole life.”
A Charlotte resident, Heintz grew up in Lancaster County and was very “goal driven” after graduating Buford High School, his mother said. “He wanted to go to Clemson, and that’s where he went,” she said. “He wanted to reach a certain rank in the military, and that’s what he did.”
Heintz served 23 years in the Army, including time in Kuwait in 2004 and 2005, and was recently promoted to command sergeant major for the 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery based in Anderson. A family man, Debra says, he was devoted not only to his wife and children, but to his brother and his brother’s family.
“They always gave each other the first salute and exchanged commemorative coins for that. They were at each other’s weddings and loved each other’s kids,” she said. “One of the last things he did was jump on the trampoline with Russell’s little girl. She’s 5, and she wanted Uncle Michael to play with her on the trampoline, so he did.”
The two brothers did many of the same things together, Debra said, with the big exception being college – Michael went to Clemson, and Russell went to the University of South Carolina. “We always had a divided household on football games,” she said.
A Facebook page set up in Heintz’s memory contains dozens of pictures of Heintz with family, friends and fellow soldiers. There’s one of his brother and a mutual friend of theirs, who visited Heintz while he was deployed in Washington last year. The caption says they were with Heintz when he died.
Debra Heintz and her husband, Michael Heintz, who live in Rock Hill, have read the posts of condolences and good memories. “Everyone he’d ever worked with or served with, they’ve all posted the nicest things, which has been comforting to us as parents,” she said. “Everyone thinks their kids are special, but he really was a special guy.”
They hold onto their own memories, too. Debra said they last saw their son about two weeks ago. He was preparing to head home after a family get-together. “He and Russell came with his kids and spent the weekend with us,” she said. “We said we loved him, and he said he loved us.”
The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Concord First Assembly Church in Concord, N.C. The family will receive friends before the service, starting at noon.
A GoFundMe page has been set up in lieu of flowers, with donations going to Elevation Church’s Youth Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.