Thursday, May 26, 2011

Army 1st Lt. John M Runkle

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. John M Runkle, 27, of West Salem, Ohio

1st Lt. Runkle was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died May 26, 2011 of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman, Staff Sgt. Edward D. Mills Jr., Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall, Spc. Adam J. Patton and Sgt. Louie A. Ramos Velazquez.

Lt Runkle joined the Army in June 2006. He attended West Point and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. He arrived at Ft Campbell in June 2010. He was an Army Pathfinder and member of the Screaming Eagles.

Lt Runkle's mother, Christine, said she spoke to her son was two weeks ago. "It was a normal conversation. I've been able to speak to him almost on a weekly basis," she said. "However, I didn't get to speak to him the last weekend or Mother's Day weekend."

She said when Runkle got deployed she said just like any other mom, "it wasn't what you want to hear." However, she knew it was a part of his duty. Now, she said Memorial Day has become a "whole different holiday. I'll never look at the flag the same way again," she said.

Northwestern High School Principal, Mike Burkholder, said immediately after the district heard about Runkle's death, it wanted to help in some way. Since the family is expecting many family, friends and community supporters, the high school gym will be used for the memorial service.

"We're trying to be there for the family and the community. We're all in this together. I know there will be a lot of people who will want to take the opportunity to recognize and honor (Runkle's) life and sacrifice," said Burkholder.

Paul Eicher of the American Legion Post 499 in West Salem said Runkle was a member of Post 499 for six years.

"This has hit the community hard. He was a fantastic man. The community and country lost a good citizen," Eicher said.

At Northwestern High School's graduation on Thursday, the flag flew at half mast and a moment of silence was held after it was announced West Salem native, John Runkle Jr., member of the class of 2002, was killed in action in Afghanistan.

Lt Runkle's awards and decorations include:

Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Air Assault Badge
Parachutist Badge
Pathfinder Badge
Ranger Tab

Lt Runkle's mother said she will be notified within 48 hours of her son's body arriving at the Mansfield Lahm Airport. She said Runkle's roommate from West Point, Jacob Sass, will be an escort for Runkle's casket to the high school then to the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, where he will be buried.

The West Salem Police Department plans to escort the procession and encourages community members to help line the route with American flags.

A memorial service at Ft Campbell will honor the fallen Screaming Eagles on June 8th.

Lt Runkle is survived by his mother, Christine; father, John; sister Jana and brothers, Cory and Brent.

Army 1st Lt. John M Runkle was killed in action on 5/26/11.

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