Thursday, May 06, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Rangel

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Rangel, 22, of San Antonio

LCpl Rangel was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died May 6, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Christopher Rangel would never know if his grandmother got the flowers for Mother’s Day. They were roses for a woman who raised him, his sister and his twin brother since he was six months old. “I considered them my kids. Not my grandkids. My kids,” said Gloria Rangel.

Word came Thursday of her grandson’s death, brought by Marines standing at attention outside her home. It’s a home now adorned with the familiar red color and anchor of the corps.

Rangel was killed in Afghanistan when his Humvee was ambushed, and he was fatally shot.

Gloria Rangel says she didn’t want her grandson to go to Afghanistan this time around. She had hung the yellow ribbon in January when he deployed, hoping for his safe return.

“It hurts so much. I’ve been feeling so empty. And there’s a piece of my heart that’s not there. It’s not there,” she said.

A 22-year-old West Campus High School graduate serving with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan was killed this week, after his unit came under fire from enemy insurgents.

According to his family, Christopher Rangel was deployed to Afghanistan in January, and was due to return home in July. Rangel had been stationed at Camp Legeune, NC.

"It's so sad that it had to come to this," said Rangel's uncle Robert Rangel. "I'm gonna miss him dearly, and I'm very proud of him."

Listed on a roster as 5 feet 9 inches and just 165 pounds, Chris Rangel was a leader on the field in one of the last football seasons at West Campus High School.

To friends and family, memories of a hard-driving linebacker in a red, white and blue No. 35 jersey soothe the pain of learning that Rangel, 22, was killed by enemy fire last week in Afghanistan. According to the Defense Department, he died Thursday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province.

His wife, Linda, who also attended West Campus, said her husband, a Marine lance corporal and infantry team leader who served twice in Iraq, “gave it his all.”

“He was a great husband. Even when he came home tired, he would help me with anything,” Linda Rangel, a petty officer in the Navy, said by phone Monday from Norfolk, Va.

“He did everything he could for his team. His buddies would say, ‘Rangel is the best!'” she said.

Rangel, son of former San Antonio boxer Roland Rangel, was raised with his sister Belinda and twin brother Roland Jr. by their paternal grandparents, Gloria and Alfredo Rangel, relatives said.

“We pretty much grew up together as brothers” in a large family on the Southwest Side, said Robert Rangel, 27, the Marine's uncle.

Rangel had wanted to become a career Marine. But after deploying to Afghanistan in January, he recently decided to get out of the service and return to school, once his tour ended in July, his uncle said.

“He knew it was going to be tough in Afghanistan,” he said.

But Rangel's uncle smiled when talking about his nephew being nicknamed “Wee Man” in football, because of his size, and his jubilation at scoring a touchdown against Marion his senior season, though the game was one of many the Cougars lost.

John Olmstead, a former West Campus football coach and former Army major, said Rangel played football all through high school and had extra energy in the fourth quarter.

“If he'd tried as hard in academics as he did in athletics, he would've made all A's,” Olmstead said. “He played much bigger than his size. There were a lot of qualities in Chris that reminded me of some of the better soldiers I'd had.”

Jesse Heridia, a math teacher, said Rangel was a B and C student — “the type of kid you wouldn't want to fail” — because he showed such promise and “had a clear understanding of right and wrong.”

While returning in a school bus from a senior trip to the zoo, Rangel took charge as students distributed their leftover lunches to homeless people on Commerce Street, said Toni Needham, his former English teacher.

“He was very bright, and had a real quiet sense of leadership,” she said.

Rangel's 2006 senior class at West Campus, which closed in 2007 and was consolidated with South San High School, had just 96 members and was a close-knit group, Needham said. Though many of his fellow graduates are now scattered, teachers at South San who still remember him consoled each other Monday with hugs and words of comfort.

“This is one of the hard parts of being a teacher,” Olmstead said.

Family members said Rangel's remains might arrive this week at Lackland AFB. Services are pending with Porter Loring Mortuary.

Since his death, the family has lined the front of the house with small red Marine Corps flags, “to let him know we're proud of him,” his uncle said.

Rangel is survived by four brothers, including his twin, a sister, and his wife, 20-year-old Linda Rangel, whom he met in high school. Linda Rangel is currently serving in the U.S. Navy.

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Rangel was killed in action on 5/6/10.

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