Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shawn Rankinen laid to rest

Countless American flags surrounded Betsy Rankinen as she followed her son's casket to a blue tent in the southeast corner of Woodlawn Cemetery. Spc. Shawn Phillip Rankinen died March 7 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations north of Baghdad, Iraq.

Betsy adopted Rankinen when he was 10 and was a foster mother to him from 10 weeks-old as she was to so many other children. Friday afternoon a mother who knows about loving children and letting them go said a final goodbye to her son, who was laid to rest in Independence.

Members of the American Legion Patriot Guard Riders stood outside Rankinen's service at D.W. Newcomer's Sons Noland Road Chapel, each with a flag to honor his service and his sacrifice. Inside, Lindy Reed of First Baptist Church in Holden, Mo., read a letter written by his mother.

" 'He always said I love you,' " Reed read from the letter.

Friends, family - even his second grade teacher - attended the service to pay their respects with government officials including representatives from all of Independence's congressmen, including Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

Raised in Independence, Rankinen attended Truman High School. His military career began when he joined the United States Navy in 1999. He then joined the United States Army in 2006 and was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, before being deployed in Iraq.

Two fellow soldiers from Fort Hood died with him in the explosion: Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Webb, 28, of Winchester, Calif., and Spc. Michael D. Rivera, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y. The three were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

At the burial site, as friends and family once again gathered to say goodbye, Betsy sat across from the flag draped casket as Rev. Jeff Stott provided words of comfort and prayer. Taps was played and Rankinen was honored with a 21-gun salute.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bill McCoy, a representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the flag to Betsy who held it close to her.

"We thank them (the family) for the support they gave their soldier," McCoy said.

McCoy said the support Betsy gave to her son was tremendous.

"She is a wonderful person," he said. "Not only did she support him, but she has cared for 40 foster children."

From the Examiner

Related Link:
Shawn P. Rankinen dies of injuries from I.E.D.