Marine injured

Kenton Shatzer of Hagerstown hurt in Iraq

Kenton Shatzer of Hagerstown hurt in Iraq

July 08, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

HAGERSTOWN - A U.S. Marine from Hagerstown who was injured in Iraq on July 1 was listed in critical condition at a San Antonio hospital burn unit late Wednesday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Pfc. Kenton Shatzer, 18, a rifleman and Humvee driver, was admitted to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Tuesday morning, hospital spokeswoman Norma Guerra said.

Shatzer has burns over 19 percent of his body, she said.

Information about how he was injured has not been made public and his family hasn't been told, his father, Vaughn Shatzer, said.


Vaughn Shatzer said he received a phone call on July 3 informing him that his son had second-degree burns on his hands, lower back and both legs. His goggles and helmet protected his eyes and head from being burned, Vaughn Shatzer said.

He was taken to San Antonio because it has the best burn center in the world, he said.

West Virginia Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Brad Runkles, 22, of Hedgesville, W.Va., is at the same hospital, being treated for burns sustained in a June 28 explosion in Iraq, his mother, Audrey Runkles, said Wednesday.

Brad Runkles expects to return to Hedgesville in five or six days, Audrey Runkles said.

Guerra said Runkles was listed in satisfactory condition.

The Marine Corps is paying to fly Shatzer's family to San Antonio this morning, Vaughn Shatzer said.

While his son will need weeks of therapy, he is not expected to need skin grafts, Vaughn Shatzer said.

The family has been doing a great deal of crying and praying over the past few days, his wife, Peggy Shatzer, said.

Shatzer graduated from Heritage Academy in June 2003. A member of the Heritage basketball team, he holds the record for the most points scored in a season - 655, Vaughn Shatzer said.

The leading scorer on the team for the 2002-03 season, he averaged about 21 points per game, his coach, Mike Kidd, said.

"He was a very hard-working player," Kidd said. "He was not really tall but he played really strong and hard and accomplished a lot. He always had a good attitude about the game and the other players."

Before he was sent to Iraq in March 2004, his son had eight months of training, including urban warfare training, Vaughn Shatzer said.

'He said it was hell'

Kenton Shatzer was stationed in Ramadi, Iraq, about 20 miles west of Fallujah. He told his dad that some violence like that in Fallujah also was taking place in Ramadi, Vaughn Shatzer said.

"He said it was hell," Vaughn Shatzer said.

When the two last talked, on June 29, his son told him he had no regrets, Vaughn said.

"Dad, I don't want you worrying about me. I am not here biting my fingernails. I am glad I signed up to become a Marine," he said, according to his father.

Kenton Shatzer had two major duties in Iraq. He drove officers in a Humvee, and also participated in more than 100 urban warfare missions, Vaughn Shatzer said.

On those missions, Marines go door to door in neighborhoods, kicking down doors when needed, Vaughn Shatzer said.

About three weeks ago, his son was scheduled to drive a higher ranking officer to another location, but at the last minute he was told to stay behind, Vaughn Shatzer said.

An explosion during that trip killed six Marines and injured two others, he said.

"We believe as Christians that God had him stay behind because of his divine protection," he said.

In addition to working as a truck driver, Vaughn Shatzer writes books about religion that are published by the Southwest Radio Church Ministries. He did a radio interview Tuesday on a church radio program, asking people to pray for Kenton.

"We want him better instead of bitter," Vaughn Shatzer said.

Kenton Setzner had provided their church, Maugansville Bible Brethren Church, with a list of names of others in his unit so the congregation could pray for their safety.

Kenton Setzner is athletic and his hobbies include pumping iron, playing basketball and riding a dirt bike.

While his parents expressed concern about his decision to join the military during wartime, he said it was what he wanted.

His son was scheduled to be promoted later this month to the rank of lance corporal, Vaughn Shatzer said.

Cards and letters may be sent to injured Marine Corps Pfc. Kenton Shatzer, 18, of Hagerstown:

Kenton Shatzer

Brooke Army Medical Center

3851 Roger Brooke Drive

San Antonio, TX 78234

Cards and letters can be sent to West Virginia Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Brad Runkles:

Brad Runkles

806 Jones Spring West Road

Hedgesville, WV 25427

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