Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Marine LCpl Cody Wanken

Remember Our Heroes

Hampton Marine laid to rest
By BOB LINK, Courier Lee News Service

HAMPTON --- A wall of honor at Hampton-Dumont High School features photographs of alumni who served or are serving in the U.S. military. Lance Cpl. Cody Wanken's image is among them.

Thursday, the community and his family attended a funeral service for the Marine, passing his photo as they entered the gymnasium. Wanken, 20 died April 2 after being wounded last September in Iraq.

A crowd including a delegation of Marines from San Diego and members of the Marine Corps League in Mason City and the Hampton VFW and American Legion also turned out to share their respects.

"He left home having the support of a loving family and friends in his heart," Maj. Philip Farr said. "He successfully completed boot camp, earning the title of Marine, and once a Marine, always a Marine.

"This week our Marine family has brought him home."

Wanken was a machine gunner in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He graduated early in 2006 from Hampton-Dumont and joined the service in May of that year.

He was in the third month of a seven-month deployment when he was wounded. He suffered injuries to his eye, ear and face, according to published reports.

Wanken returned to the U.S, underwent several surgeries and appeared to be on his way to recovery.

"Cody was a gift of love from God --- to his parents, Rick and Sue, and all the people who got to know him," the Rev. Bernard Grady said.

Grady talked about how the young man was his father's biggest supporter during Rick Wanken's deployment during Desert Storm.

Cody stayed on people's minds.

"When he was wounded, we all supported him and hoped and prayed for a quick recovery," Grady said. "But recovery was long and suffering great. His death brings great sorrow and frustrates our hope."

Joel Heuer, a teacher and assistant football coach at Hampton-Dumont, talked about a bully picking on a student. Wanken told the bully to stop. When he didn't, Wanken punched the boy.

Heuer called Wanken to his office and told him that even though the bully was wrong, the school couldn't promote fighting. Then the school called his mother, Sue.

"She came to school and really laid into him," Heuer said. "But he sat quietly and listened to his mother, not saying a word, never disrespectful."

Talking about Wanken's contributions to the Bulldog football team, Heuer said the young man never wanted to let his coaches or teammates down.

"I remember when he came to my office to tell me he had joined the Marines," said Heuer. "I recall great pride. Cody loved what he was doing. He cared about what he did and serving his country."

Classmate Troy Potter said Wanken was the best friend a person could hope for and was like a brother.

"Cody, you became a man who deserves respect and honor," Potter said.

"Most of the greatest memories of my life have included you," he said, wiping tears away.

Football coach Jerry Shafrath spoke last, referring to a phone conversation a couple of weeks ago.

"He told me that more than anything he wanted to get back to his unit ... to give other guys hope for recovery," Shafrath said.

"I told him to keep pressing toward his goal. He had all the things it took to be a good Marine: commitment, honor and courage."

An honor guard took Wanken's casket from the gym as a pianist played "America the Beautiful." As the procession reached the back, the Marines stopped, took the white pall from the casket and replaced it with an American flag. The Marines saluted before carrying their comrade from the building.

Wanken was buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Goldfield.

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