1st Lt. John Runkle
WEST SALEM -- In her purse, Chris Runkle carries a tattered envelope holding a handwritten, thank you note from her son when he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The note reads, "Whether you realize it or not, you are a rock upon which I lean. When the road gets bumpy, when the path I walk gets dark and when my body and spirit tire and I become filled with doubt."
Sunday, Runkle retrieved the treasured thank you note and read it again for the first time since learning that her son, 1st Lieutenant John Runkle, 27, had been killed in Afghanistan.
"He's the most honorable man I know," Chris Runkle said fighting back tears. "He's my role model. My son is my role model."
Runkle, of West Salem in Wayne County, was one of six soldiers from the same unit based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who died on May 26 when insurgents attacked them with an improvised explosive device. The soldiers may have been on foot patrol when the homemade bomb was detonated.
Chris Runkle said that her son joined the Army after high school and served in Iraq before he attended West Point where he graduated in the top ten percent of his class. John Runkle's military career includes numerous awards and decorations.
"John felt what he was doing was very important," Chris Runkle said. "And it is. I'm very proud of John, proud of all the men and women in service.
"I have a belief that God takes people who are too special to remain on this earth," said Runkle with a pause. "And John was just a little bit too special."
Runkle is survived by his father John Runkle of Wooster and three siblings.
Chris Runkle said that her son will be buried at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.