Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Jeremy R Shank

Jackson, Missouri

September 6, 2006

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
18 Army Cpl

2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division

Schofield Barracks, Hawaii

 Killed in Balad, Iraq, of injuries suffered in Hawijah, Iraq, when he encountered enemy forces using small arms fire during a dismounted security patrol.

From McCombs Funeral Homes

Cpl. Jeremy R. Shank
Visitation: Saturday, Sept. 16th, from 4 – 8 PM, at the McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson
Service: Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006 at 2:30 PM at the First Baptist Church in Jackson

Cpl. Jeremy R. Shank, 18, of Jackson, passed away Wednesday, September 6, 2006, while serving his country in Iraq.

Shank was born February 29, 1988, in Cape Girardeau, to James A. and Deborah J. Vaughn Shank. He attended Jackson High School.

He enlisted in the United States Army on May 31st, 2005 and graduated Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Ga., as an Infantryman. He was initially assigned to 1-21 Infantry on January 30th, 2006, before transferring to A Company, 2-27 on March 26th, 2006, where he served as a mortar man. He arrived with his platoon to FOB McHenry on August 23rd, 2006.

His awards and decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Operation Iraqi Freedom Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Expert Marksmanship Badge, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Shank was an avid hunter, a member of the National Turkey Federation, and was anticipating a trip home during deer season this November.

Loving survivors include his parents, James A. and Deborah J. (Vaughn) Shank; two brothers, Christopher and Nathan Shank, all of Jackson; and fiancée, Ashley Hahn of Millersville.

The surviving paternal family includes grandmother, Evelyn Shank of Belleville, Ill; and aunt, Judi Shank of Belleville.

The surviving maternal family includes an uncle, Ronald Vaughn of San Diego, Ca.; and four aunts, Kay (Joe) Carroll of Cape Girardeau, Karen (Tom) O’Carroll of Chandler, Az., Rosalee (Robert) Schultz of Lee Summit, Mo., and Mary Vaughn-Luhman of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

He was preceded in death by paternal grandfather, James Shank, Jr.; maternal grandparents, Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Paul B. Vaughn; and maternal aunt, Sharon Vaughn (Jackson , Mo.)

Friends may call Saturday, September 16th, from 4 – 8 PM, at the McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson, and Sunday, September 17th, from 12:30 – 2:30 PM, at the First Baptist Church in Jackson.

Funeral service will be Sunday, at 2:30 PM, at the church, with the Rev. Carter Frey officiating.

Interment will follow in Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson with full military honors.

Memorials may be made to the family. 

From Jefferson City News Tribune 09/08/06:

Missouri native killed in Iraq

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri native stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii has been killed in Iraq, the military said Thursday.

The Department of Defense said Pfc. Jeremy R. Shank, 18, of Jackson, died Wednesday in Balad from wounds suffered in Hawaijah when he encountered small arms fire during a dismounted security patrol. Jackson is about 100 miles south of St. Louis.

The infantryman entered the Army in May 2005 and was assigned to Schofield Barracks five months later. He was one of 7,000 25th Infantry Division soldiers who deployed to Iraq in July.

Shank's father told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday that his son left high school early and earned a high school equivalency degree before joining the Army.

“He was in a rebellious period and wanted to get out of the house,” James Shank said. “But he was proud to be a soldier. It was what he wanted to do ... He was a hell of a kid.”

Shank also said his son was trained to speak Arabic and was with a Stryker force.

“He wasn't rebuilding,” Shank said. “He was there to do a job, and that was to kill.”

Shank said he disagreed with U.S. policy in Iraq.

“We have boys dying for some unguided reason,” he said. “We need to be out of there.”

His son was due to come home on leave in November.

From The Honolulu Advertiser 09/08/06:

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.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

From The SE Missourian 09/08/06:

Mayor orders Jackson's flags to half-staff for soldier
Friday, September 8, 2006
JENNIFER FREEZE ~ Southeast Missourian

It's evident U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Shank's family was proud of their son and brother by a sign that hangs from the front window of their Jackson home.

"I love my son Pfc. Shank," the yellow ribbon sign reads.

Jeremy Shank was the son of Jim and Debbie Shank of Jackson. On Thursday, a family friend said that Jim Shank was not ready to speak to the media.

Jackson Mayor Paul Sander has ordered American flags on all city properties to be flown at half-staff until after Shank's funeral, which has not been announced.

A yellow bow, offering support for troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, is tied around a tree in the front yard. And a blue Dodge truck, which a neighbor said was Jeremy Shank's, has a magnet on the back that reads, "Pray for our troops."

Shank, 18, of Jackson was killed early Wednesday morning local time. His brother, Chris Shank, confirmed on Wednesday that Jeremy Shank was in the Army's 25th Infantry Division.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Pfc. Jeremy R. Shank, 18, of Jackson, Mo., died on Wednesday in Balad, Iraq, 150 miles north of Baghdad, of injuries suffered in Hawijah, Iraq, when he encountered enemy forces using small arms fire during a dismounted security patrol. Shank was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Sander lives near the Shank family, and has been friends with them for more than 10 years.

"This is a horrible, horrible tragedy. Jeremy will be sorely missed, and my sympathy goes out to the family," Sander said.

Jackson Senior High School assistant principal Vince Powell remembers Shank as a personable young man.

"He was a good guy. He had a lot of friends, and still has a lot of friends at the school," Powell said.

Shank attended Jackson Senior High School until February 2006, and played on the football team in 2005, said assistant principal and athletic director Kevin Bohnert.

The school is in the preliminary stages of planning a memorial service for Shank.

Larry Koehler, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Jackson American Legion, said he appreciates what Shank did for the country. "It's a very sad thing, and our hearts go out to the family," Koehler said. "We certainly appreciate what these young men our doing for our country."

Shank is the second Jackson war death since Sgt. Robert Davis, 23, of Jackson died in Afghanistan on Aug. 19, 2005, when a roadside bomb exploded near his armored vehicle.


The SE Missourian 09/18/06:

A community mourns
Monday, September 18, 2006
JENNIFER FREEZE ~ Southeast Missourian

Cpl. Jeremy Shank, who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq, was buried Sunday in Jackson.

As a child, Jeremy Shank patrolled the streets of Jackson with a toy rifle over his shoulder and a toy pistol in his jeans.

He called himself the "gun guy," his father Jim Shank said.

"Jeremy had always been the gun guy, even up to his last breath," Jim Shank said Sunday at his son's funeral.

Cpl. Jeremy Shank, 18, died Sept. 6 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries suffered in Hawijah, Iraq. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Shank was on a dismounted security patrol when he encountered enemy forces using small arms.

About 300 family members, friends and soldiers packed the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Jackson. Hundreds more gathered outside the church and waved flags in support of Jeremy Shank and his family.

Jim Shank remembered his son as a young man with a huge heart and a sense of humor.

Jeremy Shank had three last requests, his father said. The first was to be buried with full military honors, and if something were to happen to him, Jeremy wanted the military to notify his fiancee, Ashley Hahn of Millersville.

"And third, just to show that he had a sense of humor, he wanted his dad to do his eulogy," Jim Shank said as looked out at the crowded pews and flag-draped coffin in front of him.

"Jeremy was that little boy, who liked to cover the toilet seat with cellophane. And that little boy who tied rubber bands around the spray nozzles on the kitchen sink, so that when I turned on the sink, it sprayed me," said Jim Shank with tears in his eyes.

The Jackson man thanked the community for supporting the family in the last week. "These last few days have showed me that not only have I lost a son, but this whole city has lost a son," Jim Shank said.

Christopher Shank also thanked those attending his younger brother's funeral. He referred to a Bible verse, John 13:15, "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

"I'm learning that Jeremy had 300 million friends in this country, and around the world. I gained about 9,000 friends from this town alone," Christopher Shank said.

Several friends remembered the different adventures they embarked on with Jeremy Shank during high school. Jeremy Shank left Jackson High School early, earned a high school equivalency degree and enlisted in the Army in May 2005. He was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, and was one of 7,000 25th Infantry Division soldiers deployed to Iraq in August.

His friends remembered hunting trips they took together and noted the time Jeremy Shank shot a deer from 300 yards away.

"Jeremy chose a life in the military because he'd wanted to serve in the Army. He had found his place in the Army," said the Rev. Carter Frey.

"When people join the military, they put themselves in harm's way so that you and I can have freedom to live in this country," Frey said. "Unfortunately, Jeremy had to pay the ultimate sacrifice."

Frey said he wished he had answers that would take away the Shank family's and friends' suffering and pain. He said he wished there was a way for him to restore life and turn back time.

"What I can offer you is God. A God who loves and cares for us. A God that knows us inside and out. A God who is sufficient to take care of Jeremy and each one of us," Frey said. "God is now the one who is caring for Jeremy."

About 100 men and women riding motorcycles with American flags attached led a processional to Russell Heights Cemetery, where the soldier was laid to rest.

Veterans groups from Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Tennessee showed their support for Shank and his family before and after the funeral.

"We feel that Jeremy Shank was one of us, and we want to support him and his family. We are brothers under this banner called the American flag," said Vietnam War veteran Rodger Brown as he stood outside First Baptist Church before the funeral.

"I am absolutely impressed at the number of people, and my heart swells," Brown said. "It's so unfortunate that this young man paid the ultimate price for what he believed in."



Soldier's tribute
Friday, September 22, 2006

When the body of Cpl. Jeremy Shank was returned to his hometown for burial, the community responded in a way befitting the honor he so richly deserved. Shank died while serving his nation in Iraq. 
To show their respect both to Shank and his family, hundreds of people lined Jackson's streets waving flags. Businesses put special messages of support and sympathy on their sign boards. 

During and after Shank's funeral at Jackson First Baptist Church, hundreds more mourners paid their respects, many of them joining an emotionally moving funeral procession to Russell Heights Cemetery. 

The outpouring of the community's sense of loss and its foundation in patriotic values were evident for several days. Not only did this offer some comfort to the Shank family, but it also showed the best side of area residents who mourned with the dead soldier's relatives and were united in their caring and concern. 

The display was one of community compassion and understanding of one family's tragic loss. And it was a fitting young hero's tribute. 
Fallen soldier's father- 'You can be a hero at any age'
Saturday, November 11, 2006

By SCOTT MOYERS , Southeast Missourian Newspaper 
"Want to see what a hero looks like?" 

Jim Shank asked the question to the auditorium full of wide-eyed Scott City school children Friday morning. Shank then pulled out a poster-sized picture of a handsome 18-year-old young man. 

"This is my son," he said. "Jeremy Shank." 

In an emotional speech, Jim Shank of Jackson spoke at a Scott City School District assembly for Veterans Day on Friday, just two months after his son died in Iraq. 

The core of his message was that tomorrow is never guaranteed and that the children should make sure that their parents and extended family members know they are loved. 

"Take a look at your life," he said. "Take a look at what you're doing. You can be a hero at any age. But whatever you do, don't let life pass you by. ... Jeremy didn't get that chance." 

Cpl. Jeremy Shank, 18, died Sept. 6 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries suffered in Hawijah, Iraq. Shank was on a dismounted security patrol when he encountered enemy forces using small arms. Shank had only been in Iraq two weeks when he was killed. 

During his talk, Jim Shank read from his son's journal, which painted a picture of a scared young man with death at the forefront of his mind. "I've never felt so close to death in my life," Jeremy Shank wrote. 

After the speech, Shank shared other insights about life without his son. He said he always knew that his son loved him, but Jeremy had a hard time expressing those feelings. 

"I made sure I told him every time I talked to him," Jim Shank said. "That sort of thing was never easy for Jeremy. But I knew he loved me." 

Two months afterward, the reality of his son's death hasn't sunk in yet, Shank said. He said events like Friday's homecoming for 50 area soldiers who were in Iraq are bittersweet. 

"I always figured mine would be one of them coming home," he said. "The guys I knew over there all came back. I expected Jeremy would also." 

One of Shank's proudest statements has been stripped from him. 

"I could always say, 'My three sons,'" Shank said. "Now that's empty. I still have three sons, but I don't have three sons anymore." 

Shank doesn't know what to expect today, his first Veterans Day without his son. He does know he plans to put a flag and wreath on his son's grave. 

He admits in the past it has always been just another day. He doesn't blame people who just want to have a barbecue or spend time with family. "I don't hold that against anybody," he said. "The veterans fought so we could have that day and do whatever we want with it." 

Shank was pleased with the recent election. He believes his son wasn't trained enough and that soldiers should be pulled from Iraq, though he is quick to add he is very supportive of the troops. 

"If our president pulled the guys out of Iraq today I wouldn't say Jeremy died in vain," Shank said. "But if more and more kids like Jeremy died, I would say he died in vain, because we didn't learn." 

One thing Shank knows he won't ever do is try to put his son out of his thoughts. 

"I don't plan on forgetting him," Shank said. "And I don't plan on letting anybody else forget either." 

Blunt praises local law enforcement agencies
Thursday, November 9, 2006
By KYLE W. MORRISON ~ Southeast Missourian 

Gov. Matt Blunt honored area law enforcement officials for their role in keeping the peace at the Sept. 17 funeral of a Jackson soldier killed in Iraq. Those present at the proclamation ceremony were, from left, Lt. Vince Diebold, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff Department; Blunt; Drew Juden, director of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety; Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan; Jackson police Capt. Bob Hall; Jackson police chief James Humphreys; Cape Girardeau police chief Carl Kinnison; and Jackson police Lt. Chris Mouser.
(Submitted photo)
[Click to enlarge] 
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- People wishing to protest at funerals of soldiers may find it much more difficult to do in Missouri with law enforcement agencies willing to ensure the services are protected, Gov. Matt Blunt said Wednesday. 
In the governor's Jefferson City office, Blunt issued a proclamation to Cape Girardeau-area law enforcement officials who worked to enforce Missouri's Funeral Protest Law. 

Members of the Topeka, Kan., Westboro Baptist Church intended to protest the funeral of Jackson-native Jeremy Shank, who was killed Sept. 6 in Iraq. The group routinely protests at the funerals of soldiers throughout the country, claiming God is punishing the United State for tolerating homosexuality. 

Days before the Sept. 17 funeral, the church lost its effort in federal court to seek a temporary injunction against enforcing the funeral law, which prohibits protest demonstrations in front of or around a funeral. The law was passed earlier this year. 

Local law enforcement agencies were named defendants in the case. 

The proclamation honored Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle; officers from the police departments of Cape Girardeau, Jackson, and Sikeston; officers from the Bollinger County and Cape Girardeau County sheriff's departments; Missouri State Highway Patrol officers; and officers from the Cape Girardeau County Juvenile Office and state Children's Division. 

Several law enforcement agencies were prepared to assist in keeping the peace during the funeral. None of the protesters showed up to demonstrate. 

Blunt said in a news release that the honorees "aggressively enforced this law to ensure that families and communities are protected from the protests of a fringe group that acts with hate and causes pain to those who are mourning the loss of a military hero." 

Swingle said he would surprised if the church or another group would attempt to protest another funeral in Missouri. 

"I think Missouri is ready, willing and able to vigorously enforce this law," he said. 

Also in attendance at the presentation were state Reps. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, and Scott Lipke, R-Jackson. 


335-6611, extension 127 
From SE Missourian semissourian.com 03/16/07:

For Jeremy
Friday, March 16, 2007
By Matt Sanders | Southeast Missourian

Everyone deals with grief in different ways, and everyone honors dead loved ones in different ways.

For Chris Shank, a 23-year-old Southeast Missouri State University student eyeing a career in movies, his way of dealing with the emotional pain was to write a movie script.

"I wrote the first draft about a week and a half, two weeks after he died, right about the time of the funeral," Shank said, referring to the death of his brother, Jeremy. "It was one of those things where I had all these words and all these emotions flying around. They say it's healthy to get it down on paper. Well, this was the only way I knew how. I'm not a poet. I can't write good short stories. So I'll write a script."

The death of Shank's brother wasn't like the deaths most families deal with. Jeremy's death was a long, public affair that involved seemingly all of the Shanks' hometown, Jackson, and the greater Southeast Missouri region. Jeremy Shank was one of the first local casualties of the war in Iraq.

U.S. Army Cpl. Jeremy Shank died Sept. 6 in Balad, Iraq, from injuries received in combat with the Army's 25th Infantry Division while on a dismounted patrol, just weeks after he was deployed to Iraq. He was 18.

Hundreds of mourners and family supporters turned out for Shank's emotional funeral. Many of them considered him a hometown hero. To Chris, he was a brother and a best friend, and he was gone.

Numb, Chris said, "I didn't cry for a good two weeks after my brother died."

When the emotion came, Chris Shank poured it all out through a keyboard. The result was a script called "The Reservist," a movie that seeks to honor Jeremy and the community that supported the Shank family. Shank and movie-making partner and old friend, 23-year-old Blake Burress, hope 'The Reservist" will strike a chord not only with people familiar with the Shanks' story, but anyone who has ever lost a loved one or experienced the inevitable changes life forces on us.

"This is for Jeremy. This is a tribute to him and the people who have stood by Chris and his family in Jeremy's memory," Burress said.

The plot's protagonist is a mixture of the Shank brothers -- combining Jeremy's passion for being a member of the armed forces and the loss Chris experienced.

"I wanted to write a script based on my brother's life, being in the Army and the sacrifice that he made, but at the same time I also wanted to do a script about how it feels to lose someone you're close to," Shank said. "And all at once I realized I didn't have to write two scripts."

Shank and Burress don't want to give away too much plot, but the action all takes place locally, as the protagonist witnesses a friend go to war.

"It's just about a guy who realizes all at once that he is a mortal. He will die one day, there's no guarantee that he'll be here a week or a month down the line, and it scares him," Shank said.

Most of the script that Shank banged out in those days following his brother's death has been discarded, he said.

"The original one was a lot more angry," Chris said. And it didn't cover his own emotional "evolution" as time started to heal his grief and give him perspective on what had transpired.

In its current form, Burress calls the script a "valentine" to Jeremy's memory, the pain the Shank family went through and the solidarity Jackson and Southeast Missouri showed in September.

"A lot of people when they get to be our age, they think, I hate my small town, I want to get out," said Burress, who grew up with Jeremy as one of Chris' best friends since childhood. "I'm kind of fond of it."

"It takes something like that to realize what kind of a town you're actually from," Shank said.

The filmmakers say they've already received overwhelming support -- almost everyone who knows about the project wants to be involved. They're hoping that support will carry over March 25, when they'll have casting calls for all ages from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Osage Community Centre. Shank and Burress need a large number of actors for a variety of parts, so the results of the casting call will be essential to the feature-length movie's completion.

Burress and Shank hope to have filming completed by late May or early June and do any reshoots and editing over the summer, before their university classes start again.

There is no agenda to the film, they say.

"Some people might think it's pro-war, some people might think it's against the war," Shank said. "They're entitled to their own opinion. We're going to try to show what it's like to lose someone you're close to. Every person deals with that at some point in their life."

"The Reservist" is, more than anything, a coming-of-age tale, say Burress and Shank. The protagonist grows up, he changes and his relationships with others change.

The movie also deals with the changes veterans of the conflict in Iraq go through when they come home after months living in drastically different conditions, Burress said.

"We want to capture that feeling of being a stranger in a strange place, but in your own home," he said.

Along with all the support comes a lot of pressure, Shank and Burress say, to honor Jeremy's memory in a deserving way. The pressure also comes in dealing with a subject that is familiar to so many local people, especially when word about the project has already leaked out.

"It seems like, especially in Jackson, this has become a huge underground success already," Shank said.

The first audiences to see "The Reservist" will probably be local -- the people who lived through the drama after Jeremy's death. But Shank and Burress also plan to promote the film online and they hope to make national audiences aware of "The Reservist."

"There's pressure there, I think, but we just want to make something we can be proud of and something Jeremy would be proud of," Burress said.

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