Family wants veteran's medals returned

At left, Charles David Sankey had just joined the Army after graduating from Arizona State. At right, then 1st Lt. Sankey receives his Silver Star in Vietnam.


By MICHAEL STAVOLA | The Hutchinson News | Published: January 31, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — The shrapnel pulled from Charles "Chuck" David Sankey's ashes is a testament to the veteran's character.

Now the family wants back a piece of their father's legacy stolen from a self ttorage unit in Hutchinson, Kan. The family is offering a $12,000 reward to anyone with information that leads them to the Silver Star, Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars stolen from the storage unit.

Sankey, 73, died at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita last Thursday of complications caused by Agent Orange — a chemical used extensively during the Vietnam War. Bruce Sankey said his brother knew he was dying and elected to move into an assisted living home and put most of his belongings in the storage unit in November. He thought it would be easier for his family to sort through the belongings, Bruce said.

Family went to clean out what they thought was a filled storage unit on Saturday but instead found a unit with a lamp and a photo of Sankey's cat. Sankey had stored an antique chair and clock at the unit, but the family is primarily concerned with the medals.

Bruce said the unit showed no signs of a break-in. It was locked when they arrived, he said.

Hutchinson Police Department detective Travis Lahann said the facility has cameras and that police are "following up on different leads."

Bruce said Sen. Pat Roberts' office called the U.S. Defense Department to get the family a new Silver Star. But that's not the same as the one pressed onto his brother's uniform for his bravery on April 1, 1969.

On that day, then-1st Lt. Sankey held the line despite being shot multiple times by Viet Cong in the Gia Dinh Province.

An official report said:

"While moving in single file near a suspected enemy position, the company was struck by a command detonated mine. After calling for a medevac, Lieutenant Sankey was moving forward to assess the situation when his element was hit by intense rocket, automatic weapons and small arms fire. A rocket exploded near him, seriously wounding him and within 20 minutes ninety percent of the forward element became casualties. In spite of his wounds, Lieutenant Sankey remained in an exposed position and directed light fire team fire, medevacs and ammunition resupply until contact was broken.

"He refused to be evacuated until the firefight ended and all other casualties were medevaced. Lieutenant Sankey's valiant actions inspired the Vietnamese soldiers whom he accompanied and encouraged them to fight against overwhelming odds. First Lieutenant Sankey's conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon himself in the military service."

Bruce said his brother came back with 29 holes in his body from that day.

The two grew up in Kingman where their father owned Kingman Tire and Supply. Their father's work then brought them to Arizona. Bruce said his brother served as their high school student government body president and also was the homecoming king.

Sankey went on to earn a bachelor's degree in management from Arizona State University. At ASU, he served as student commander for the ROTC program, according to his obituary.

"He was a natural-born leader," Bruce said.

He also earned a master's degree in human resources at San Diego State University and then a doctorate in education at ASU.

In 1988, Sankey retired from the Army as a major after 21 years of service. Bruce described his brother as ruggedly handsome, physically fit and the kind of person who would give the shirt off his back for someone else.

Those attributes, Bruce said, were part of the reason his peers called the airborne ranger "Captain America."

Sankey openly spoke about his post-traumatic stress disorder. He moved to Hutchinson about 12 years ago and wrote letters to the editor that were published in The News.

Bruce said their mother eased Sankey's PTSD, so he moved to the area after she moved to Wichita. In Hutchinson, he met Elma Hunsinger and the two married.

Sankey is survived by Elma, a brother, his children, Gaylan and Davis Sankey, and a grandson, Eli.

©2018 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)
Visit The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.) at www.hutchnews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

from around the web