City of Roses
|Here's a heartfelt article that takes a deeper, more personal glimpse into the life of Jeremy Shank and his tragic loss.
Schofield soldier killed in Iraq
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
During his sophomore year in high school, Jeremy R. Shank was among football players at a pep rally challenged to chug a gallon of milk.
"He chugged it, and then he threw up in front of everybody," his father, James Shank, recalled.
Those days weren't that long ago. But after finishing high school and joining the Army, the son had grown up quite a bit, his father said. He was planning to get married in November.
"He went from being a troublemaker to just a great kid, a great citizen, a great son," James Shank said.
On Wednesday, Pfc. Jeremy Shank, 18, became the first Schofield Barracks soldier to be killed on a new deployment to Iraq by more than 7,000 25th Infantry Division troops.
The Pentagon said the Jackson, Mo., man died in Balad of injuries received in Hawija, a Sunni stronghold, when he was fired upon during a security foot patrol.
"It's just really hard to believe," his father said.
The Hawai'i contingent recently landed in northern Iraq for a yearlong deployment and is part of Task Force Lightning in locations including Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, a base south of Mosul, the oil-producing city of Kirkuk, and Hawija, about 30 miles to the southwest.
Shank got out of boot camp about a year ago, his father said. Schofield Barracks was his first duty station.
If you didn't know him, the younger Shank would seem quiet, but with his friends, "he was a nut," his father said. The soldier wasn't officially engaged but had talked with his girlfriend about getting married when he was scheduled to come home on Rest and Recuperation leave in November, James Shank said.
Joining the Army "is just what he's wanted to do all his life," James Shank said. His 6-foot, 160-pound son liked the action.
"He wanted to be where it was going on," the elder Shank said. "He liked guns and hunting and the challenge of it."
Jeremy Shank was part of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry "Wolfhounds." Another Wolf-hound unit, the 1st of the 27th, had responsibility for the Hawija area on a deployment by 5,200 Schofield soldiers to northern Iraq in 2004. Thirteen Hawai'i soldiers were killed over the course of the year.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawai'i, will be in charge of Task Force Lightning — a reference to the "Tropic Lightning" division back home — and military operations in northern Iraq. A transfer of authority is expected this month.
Mixon will take over Multinational Division North from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which assumed responsibility for the region last November.
The region is about the size of Pennsylvania and includes a population of 10.2 million. Mixon will have about 21,000 U.S. troops under his command.
James Shank said by phone from Jackson that he told military officials he didn't want to know the details of what happened to his son.
"He's dead. That's enough," he said.
Brig. Gen. John M. "Mick" Bednarek, deputy commanding general for operations with Task Force Lightning, last night said the loss is being taken hard, particularly for those soldiers in Shank's unit.
"But these incredible soldiers are professionals and they continue to march after we mourn for our lost comrade," he said.
James Shank said he's proud of his son's service, but disagrees with President Bush's decision to keep U.S. troops "lingering over there" in Iraq. As of yesterday, the Pentagon reported that 2,662 U.S. personnel had been killed and 19,945 wounded in Iraq.
He said he hopes that U.S. troops are soon withdrawn from the country.
"It's a religious war," he said. "It's been going on since the Bible was written, and we are not going to solve it. It's going to go on after we are gone, and it's going to go on after whatever we do."
Shank said his son will be buried in Jackson.
"I talked it over with his fiancee, and she wants him near here, and that's good enough for me," he said.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"