By John J. Hopkins
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
A Newfane High School graduate drowned last weekend in a Texas lake near Fort Hood, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army.
Christopher Kent Heinz, 25, died from an apparent drowning July 14 at Stillhouse Hollow Lake in Salado, Texas.
KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas reports that Heinz was with nine other soldiers Sunday morning and attempted to swim across a cove. He went under about 50 feet from shore and when he didn't surface, the other soldiers called 911.
The station reported that divers recovered Heinz's body from about 12 feet of water.
Pfc. Heinz graduated from Newfane High School in 2007. High School principal Thomas Stack is out of town and could not be reached to comment.
Newfane interim superintendent Dr. Michael Wendt, who just joined the district, said the district mourns the loss of one of its graduates.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family as they deal with this tragic and unfortunate loss," said Wendt.
According to a press release from Fort Hood, Heinz entered active-duty service in Jan. 2012 as a combat engineer. He was assigned to Company C, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, in May 2012.
In a statement released by Fort Hood, Capt. Daniel G. McKew, who was Heinz's company commander, called him "one of our best," making a "great impact" on the unit despite only being there for a little more than a year.
"He was what you wanted all your soldiers to be like," McKew said. "If he was presented with a challenge, he worked his tail off to overcome the challenge. He constantly worked to improve himself."
McKew explained that Heinz didn't limit his work to the day, noting Heinz spent "countless" hours at home with correspondence courses and trying to learn his profession, and would come in early for work for extra physical training.
"He took a lot of pride in his job and was extremely determined to be successful," McKew said. "Last time I spoke with him we talked about all his goals in life and in the military. There was not a doubt in my mind that he would achieve all of them."
Heinz's awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
An obituary that appears on the US&J website reports Heinz was an active specialist in the U.S. Army and was currently training for a Sapper leader course. "He enjoyed the military very much," the obituary reports. "Chris was the life of the party and loved spending time with his friends and family."
Heinz is survived by his wife, Kelli Grembolwitz Heinz, his parents Michael and Linda, a brother, Jack of Lockport and three grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins.