Recently former Robstown resident, Mary Wyscarver received a purple heart on behalf of her late son and only child, Marine SSgt. Joseph Fankhauser.
Fankhauser, 30, was killed in Afghanistan on April 22 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in the Washer District of Helmand Province.
The medal was presented by Marine Major Gerald Habiger in a small private ceremony at the USMC Ordinance Maintenance Company in Waco.
A military funeral was held May 7 near Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The ashes of SSgt. Fankhauser will be interned in California after his unit return sometime this fall.
Fankhauser served 12 years in the corps including four tours of duty in Iraq. He was in the third week of his second tour of duty in Afghanistan at the time of his death. He was highly decorated and was a part of the EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) team that diffuses bombs.
He is the grandson of long time Robstown residents the late, Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Wyscarver. Both were middle school teachers in the Robstown ISD with Clematis Wyscarver having taught 36 of her 42 year career in that district.
Ms. Mary Wyscarver also taught in RISD and currently teaches in the Temple ISD. Fankhauser is also survived by his father, Henry Fankhauser of McAllen (a Viet Nam veteran) and wife, Heather Fankhauser of Oceanside, Calif.
Although both parents and the wife of Fankhauser were given purple hearts, Wyscarver stated that she felt guilty accepting the award. “I didn't do anything,” she explained.
Wyscarver said she was very proud of her son's first purple heart he received from shrapnel in his jaw in Iraq and equally proud of his second award. "More importantly," she continued, "I'm proud of Joe's character."
Fankhauser spent his childhood in Kingsville and Robstown, his middle school years in San Marcos and Sharyland in the Rio Grande Valley, and graduated from Mason near the panhandle. “Everyone wants to claim him and they should,” said Wyscarver. “My son is an American hero, and so are all the men and women who have died for us. You know the saying: 'All gave some, but some gave all?' Well, that was my son."
She commented that she had received 14 letters of condolences from high ranking officials including President Barack Obama, Gov. Rick Perry, and former president George W. Bush. “ I returned their correspondence and sent pictures and stories about Joe. I want them to see him as a 'real' person and not just another name on a casualty list."
The mother stated that her son was a good kid, loved to read, and was kind to young children and the elderly. She recalled that he loved to play with GI Joe toys since he was three or four years old and wore his first military uniform at San Marcos Baptist Academy in the junior ROTC program when he was 13 years old.
He was also an Eagle Scout and received the Arrow of Light award.
Wyscarver emphasized that she did not want her picture in the paper. "It's not about me," she explained, "I don't intend to live off my son's glory, but I do have two messages for the public: "the war is not over and we need to continue supporting our troops," and "There are approximately 2,000 MIAs/POWs still out there. Their parents got no flag, no purple heart, and no remains to bury. Their grief is no less real than my own."
When her son was about 5 years old, Wyscarver took him to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. where she told him that we had bodies, but no names, yet the nation honors their service. "Now we have 2,000 names, but no bodies. Shouldn't we also honor their service?" she asked.
Wyscarver suggests that our national government erect a monument on federal ground to honor these heroic men and women. She intends to strive for that cause in memory of her beloved son.