By Spc. Michael Orton
106th Public Affairs Detachment, Nevada Army National Guard
SPARKS, Nev. — The widow of the Nevada Guardsman and teacher killed during a school shooting in Sparks last month said during a tearful military ceremony Sunday that her husband reconnected with friends and reiterated his Marine values two days before he died.
Master Sgt. Michael Landsberry — a Sparks Middle School seventh grade math teacher and Marine veteran who joined the Nevada Air Guard in 2001 — died Oct. 21 after a 12-year-old student fired gunshots at classmates, which killed Landsberry and injured two others before the shooter took his own life.
More than 1,000 honored Landsberry at a memorial service Sunday, which included full military honors at Sparks Christian Fellowship, a church in the Northern Nevada town near Reno.
“He played golf with friends and he read this to me…” Landsberry’s widow said during the ceremony. “It is a Marine anthem entitled ‘Ask Me What I Was.’”
She read the anthem he recited to her two days before he died: “I have seen death and felt its warm breath. It did not faze me for I was different. I was a warrior. You ask me what I was? It was my destiny, until my last breath, to be a United States Marine. And my spirit shall live forever.”
When seventh grader Jose Reyes brought a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and fired shots outside the school building moments before class started, Landsberry tried to stop the boy, witnesses say.
"Mr. Landsberry's heroic actions, by stepping toward the shooter, allowed time for other students in the playground area to flee," Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said.
The event rocked the school’s faculty and its more than 600 students. Vigils were held leading up to a viewing Saturday and the service Sunday.
Government officials, military personnel, family and friends spoke during the ceremony. One of them was Andrea Cook, Landsberry’s stepdaughter, who graduated from Navy boot camp days after he died.
“I love you dad and I will make you proud,” Cook said during the ceremony. “One of the hardest things was to graduate from boot camp and not have you there because you were the reason I joined. You were the reason I pushed so hard in my physical fitness assessment and studied for my tests. I just wanted to make you proud.”
“There’s no such thing as an ex-Marine and [Landsberry] lived that,” said Brig. Gen. Bill Burks said, the Nevada National Guard’s adjutant general. “He lived the core values. He was the consummate military professional, and with his Batman personality and pictures of him in costume, he just had this unique sense of humor.”
Landsberry’s impact and influence on his students was well represented during the memorial ceremony.
“He had such a great personality,” said Chelsey Avera, a student of Landsberry’s who he nicknamed “Cherry Top” because of her red hair. “He would always make people smile. He liked to walk down the halls at school on Wednesday’s yelling, ‘Hump day.’ He was our hero.”
Landsberry enlisted in the Nevada Air National Guard in 2001, the same year he began teaching in the Washoe County School District. He deployed to Kuwait in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2011. During his military career, Landsberry earned more than 20 awards and decorations.
“No one could have imagined or anticipated what happened that day,” said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval at the ceremony. “What is conclusive, though, is Michael Landsberry’s selfless act — to give his own life that others may live.”
In Cook’s closing words, she expressed what fellow teachers, military personnel, family and friends echoed during the ceremony.
“You have always been a hero and your friends and family knew that, but now the whole world knows that,” she said. “You’re my hero daddy, and I will make you proud of what I will do. I love you.”