By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Veterans Day approaches, a Minnesota family mourns the loss of a loved one who served his country.

John Schlegl, 24, died at his home in Blomkest last weekend.

His family says he had battled addiction after suffering an injury during his time in the military.

“He was just a funny, easy-going guy,” said Kaitlin Budish, Schlegl’s sister. “Just made you feel good.”

And he made his family proud when he decided to join the Army after high school.

“He felt like he needed to serve his country, and serve us Americans so we can keep the freedoms that we have,” Budish said.

She says her brother made life-long friends in the military and was stationed in Alaska. When he wasn’t training, he played club hockey.

Schlegl was injured during a game one night and began taking prescription pain medications. Just a few at first, but soon it wasn’t enough.

John Schlegl and Kaitlin Budish (credit: Kaitlin Budish)

“What he did then is he switched from that to opioids because they have the same effect and they’re cheaper,” Budish said.

She says it wasn’t long before her brother knew he had a problem. He got help for his addiction and for a while was doing well. Then, last Friday night, Budish says her brother relapsed. He went to bed and never woke up.

“He had packed his stuff up for work the next morning, and Dad heard his alarm going off and didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “The detectives told us that that happens so often, that when you are clean and you go back on it, your body can’t handle it.”

As she gets ready to welcome her first child, Budish is saying goodbye to her brother and best friend.

She knows this Veterans Day won’t be the same.

“He would have been the best uncle. Great son, great brother. Just a huge heart for people,” she said. “I would say to the families of veterans that I am so proud and thankful. If they have a family member going through what John went through, I would hope for a completely different outcome because I don’t want another family to experience what we did.”

Budish says her brother would have turned 25 in January and celebrated his golden birthday.

She will remember her brother as an avid outdoorsman and athlete, and someone who was sensitive and caring to everyone he met.

John Lauritsen