Monday, June 07, 2010

Marine Sgt. John K. Rankel

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. John K. Rankel, 23, of Speedway, Ind.

Sgt Rankel was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, I MEF, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died June 7, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) - The parents of a Speedway Marine are on their way to Dover Air Force base where they will meet a military transport plane carrying their son's body.

Sgt. John Rankel was killed in Afghanistan Monday, one of the deadliest days this year for American troops.

Rankel graduated from Speedway High School in 2005. Outside John Rankel's home in Speedway, the American flag and Marine Corp flag flutter at half staff. A yellow ribbon is still tied to a tree. Sgt. Rankel's family found out yesterday that he'd been shot and killed while on foot patrol in Afghanistan.

We caught up Rankel's former coach at a basketball camp at Speedway high school, he still remembers his player and student.

“He was just a great individual and wanted to serve his country,” says Chuck Bennett, "I remember the day he made the decision to go serve and sign up. A lot of people thought he ought to play football in college, but that wasn't what his calling was."

"Just a great, great kid," remembers assistant basketball coach Joe Smith "(He) wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. And just came in and said what do I need to do and made the team and was just a cheerleader, played hard ran on and off the floor and just did all the things a coach would want to do."

Coach Chuck Bennett described Rankel as a good student and a good player, but an even a better person, who always came back to share an inspiring message.

"One, you needed to have a selfless sacrifice about you. You needed to be willing to sacrifice of yourself. The second thing was teamwork. It was getting along with others, but serving others, too," Bennett said.

Speedway City Councilman Gary Raikes, who knows the family, said Rankel touched many lives.

"He was a close friend of his family. He was a close friend of the community, and it's a huge loss for us," he said. "He obviously paid the ultimate price."

Sgt. Rankel was one of seven Americans killed on what was the deadliest day of the year for international forces in Afghanistan. Two more were killed on Tuesday.

The family's next door neighbor says Sgt. Rankel's death should serve as a reminder of the importance of military service.

"It really really makes you appreciate what they do for us and it's very sad, especially when it hits that close to home,” says Patrick Avanatti.

Today, the Marines picked up Rankel's mother Trisha Stockhoff and stepfather Don Stockhoff, they drove them to the airport where they will fly to Dover Air Force base to meet a military transport carrying their son's body.

The family hope to have the funeral at Speedway High School. They should have final arrangements made in a couple of days.

"John Rankel, I watched you grow up on the football field with my son at Speedway, and was always impressed with you. You have given the ultimate gift to each of us, the gift of living free. You will not be forgotten in my house. My heart and prayers are not only with your family but also the guys you left behind in Afghanistan, as they too have experienced a terrible loss of a brother. Peace to all of you. RIP John, your watch is over". From a military mom, Pam Schwindt

In a statement issued through a family friend, Rangel’s parents said they and other family members “truly appreciate the prayers, care, concern and love their friends and others in the community have shown them since learning of John’s death.”

“The Marine Corp has been at the family’s side since yesterday morning when they were informed,” the family statement read. “They have many issues and details to work through, including the process of making arrangements to honor and celebrate their heroic son.”

John Rankel enlisted in the Marines in 2005 after graduating from Speedway High School. After two previous tours in Iraq, he re-enlisted and was on his first tour in Afghanistan.

“John was a great young man. As a boy, he played many sports, coached and mentored youth, and much more,” the family said.

Since joining the Marine Corp, John continued in his outreach to youth. Since high school, he visited and spoke in history classrooms in Speedway Schools.

The family said it expected to hold a funeral service in 10 to 12 days.

Marine Sgt. John K. Rankel was killed in action on 6/7/10.

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