Monday, December 06, 2010

Marine Pfc. Colton W. Rusk

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pfc. Colton W. Rusk, 20, of Orange Grove, Texas

Pfc. Rusk was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Dec. 6, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations. Also killed was Cpl. Derek A. Wyatt.

Colton Rusk lived his motto. “Don’t be afraid to go after your hopes and dreams, but don’t be afraid to be willing to pay the price,” Rusk wrote under his senior photo in Orange Grove High School’s yearbook. It also was the motto he died by.
Rusk, 20, a U.S. Marine who graduated from Orange Grove High School in 2009, was shot and killed Sunday in Afghanistan.

Rusk’s dream was to join the Marines, and as soon as he graduated from high school he signed up. He knew going in that there were risks, because one of his closest friends Justin Rokohl, also of Orange Grove, lost his legs and nearly lost his life fighting in the Middle East, before Rusk enlisted.

His parents, Darrell and Kathy Rusk, were notified of his death Monday morning. By Monday afternoon, a caravan of vehicles led into their rural Jim Wells County property, where about 100 grieving family members and friends gathered to pay their respects.

"You are proud on one hand but you're sad on the other," said his dad Darrell Rusk. His brother, Cody Rusk, struggles to find the words to describe Colton but came up with just one: "perfect." Colton's mom Kathy Rusk spoke with him just Saturday morning. "We hadn't heard from him in 35 days so we were excited to hear his voice and he sounded good," she said. Colton was killed in combat the next day. Now his mom holds back tears as she reflects on her son's choice to join the Marines during war time. "He could have done anything with his life. He was smart and he could have done anything and this is what he chose," she said.

After Rusk enlisted, he ended up in South Carolina for training, before he went to Afghanistan. He was a bomb dog handler and several pictures on his Facebook page, show he and a black Labrador retriever counterpart known as Eli, in the desert surrounded by tanks and other military equipment.

Rusk, who was tall, dark and classically handsome, emulated his father Darrell, a barrel-chested, mountain of a man, who raised his three boys to be tough. But Colton Rusk also had a soft side, as well as a funny side, that made the most popular and beautiful girls in town his best friends, and earned him a special spot in his maternal grandmother’s heart, friends said.

Rusk was the kind of student who would turn on a 1,000-watt grin when he got called down by a teacher, and “aw shucks” his way out of whatever mischief he was in, teachers at Orange Grove High School said.

“He was just everybody’s kid,” said Spanish teacher Anna Garza, who knew Rusk from the time he was born. “If I had a son, he is what I hope my son would be.”

Another teacher added that Rusk was the type of boy that overprotective mothers and fathers were OK with letting their daughters date.

Rusk’s senior year of high school, he was the senior class favorite and Mr. OGHS, an honor bestowed by the entire student body. He also was first runner-up for king of the school’s homecoming court. He earned second-team all-district honors playing football in 2008 and baseball in 2007 and 2008.

“He was just a good kid all around,” said Orange Grove High School Principal Tommy Moses. “It’s not a single thing. It’s not that he was a great athlete or a great student. It’s that he was a great young man. He was everything.

Marine Pfc. Colton W. Rusk was killed in action on 12/06/10.

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