Sunday, April 22, 2012

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Fankhauser

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Fankhauser, 30, of Mason, Texas

SSgt. Fankhauser was assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died April 22, 2012 at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan of injuries received while conducting combat operations.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Paul Smith, dean of students for Mason ISD, remembers Joseph Fankhauser because of the FBI visit.

Fankhauser, born in Edinburg, transferred to Mason High School in 1998 for his junior year and graduated in 2000.

"He was never a discipline problem," Smith said. "He was always just a real serious, studious kid."

But then there was the day two FBI agents from the San Antonio office came looking for Fankhauser. They had received a report that one of the felons on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list was posing as a student named Joseph Fankhauser.

"I told the guys I know the kid, he's not on the Most Wanted list, trust me on this," Smith said. "I thought it was a pretty funny prank. They didn't think it was so funny.

"That was the only time he was ever inside the office. He was just a model student."

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Fankhauser, of McAllen, died Sunday in support of combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, according to a news release from the U.S. Marines.

He was an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps just weeks after graduating from Mason High.

Smith's son, Cade, tennis coach at Central High School in San Angelo, graduated with Fankhauser.

"We played football together our senior year," Cade Smith said. "Growing up in a small town everybody knows everybody. I remember him talking about going into the military. I remember him giving everything he had at everything he did. He was a good kid."

The Marines said this was Fankhauser's fifth combat deployment. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004, 2006, and 2007, and to Afghanistan in 2011.

His wife, Heather, in a statement from their home in San Diego, said they would have celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary in October.

She said "the love of my life" was killed when a roadside bomb detonated.

"He was 30 years old, known as either Fank or Bob to his friends and family, had the most unique sense of humor, and would have given the shirt off his back to anyone he considered a friend," she said.

His service awards included the two Purple Hearts, Combat Action Ribbon (second award), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (seventh award), Afghanistan Campaign Medal (second award), Iraq Campaign Medal (third award), Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (third award), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation (second award), Presidential Unit Citation-Navy, NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

"During the past seven years, we've endured four combat deployments," Heather Fankhauser said. "As hard as they were and as unbearable as this is now, we would not have changed any of it. He loved his country, and he did what he did so that fellow service members could safely return to their families."

She said that most of her husband's 12-year career had been spent in Southern California and they had planned to retire there after he served 20 years.

"I've been trying to figure out how to explain to our dogs that they can stop pacing the door, waiting for Joseph to return again," she said. "They jump every time they hear his car alarm.

"I miss him every day, and he will never be forgotten."

Cade Smith, who said he had not talked with Fankhauser since high school, said his heart goes out to the family.

"And we thank him and his family for his sacrifice," Smith said. "It's felt by not only me, but the community of Mason and the country."

Sergeant Fankhauser is survived by his loving family; Wife, Heather, parents, Henry and Betty Fankhauser and Mother, Mary Wyscarver.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Fankhauser was killed in action on 4/22/12.

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