Sunday, April 18, 2004

Family, friends eulogize fallen soldier

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Staff Sgt. George Rentschler was eulogized Saturday as "the greatest dad" by his 12-year-old son during the funeral for the soldier killed in Iraq.

Rentschler's family, friends and fellow soldiers remembered him as a competitor, a mentor and someone who enjoyed humor. As his flag-draped casket was carried from Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church, boys who were coached by Rentschler in baseball at Fort Knox wore ball caps paying their own tribute to the soldier.

Rentschler, 31, died April 7 when a rocket hit the side of a tank in which he was riding. He was with the Army's 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Division.

His son, Scott, fought his emotion as he described how people remembered his father: as the best coach they had ever had, or as the best friend they had ever had.

"And also, the greatest dad you could ever ask for," Scott said to a chorus of "amen" from some in the congregation.

Rentschler's mother, Lillian, read a poem to a fallen soldier, and his wife also spoke.

"He died doing what he loved," said Rentschler's widow, Rachel.

She read from a letter she wrote her dead husband, saying she would miss his kisses "and his goofiness."

"I will love him always, and I will miss him terribly," she said.

The Rev. T. Vaughn Walker of First Gesthemane Baptist Church prayed for a "rapid resolution" to the war so other families wouldn't have to suffer as Rentschler's had.

"George loved his role as a man of the military, and we are indebted to him for his contribution to humanity," Walker said.

The Rev. Allen Bonnell of Clintwood, Va., remembered Rentschler as a friend and classmate at Southern Middle School.

Bonnell said that Rentschler later risked his life getting him home one night when the roads had iced over. Rentschler had three wrecks in his car, but Bonnell made it home and avoided trouble.

Rentschler received his diploma from Male High School before joining the Army. During his 10 years in the service, he spent time at Fort Knox, Fort Hood in Texas, and in Bosnia. In October, Rentschler shipped out for Iraq, with a short stop in Germany, where his wife and two sons stayed.

During the service, Bonnell listed achievements in Rentschler's military career, including being awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously.

Burial was in Pythian Ridge Cemetery in Sturgis, Ky., where other members of Rentschler's family are buried.

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