William Garrett “Garry” Schanck Jr, was born in Denison, Texas on 24 January 1948. He was the son of William and Arvaline Schanck. Garry was a 1966 graduate of Ponaganset High School where he played football and was the starting quarterback his senior year. Garry entered the University of Rhode Island in September 1966 with the class of 1970. He participated in the Army ROTC program at URI; and after his first three semesters at URI, Garry volunteered and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After completing basic training, Garry attended OCS and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps in 1968.
Second Lieutenant Schanck attended the Marine Corps Officer Training Program at Quantico, Virginia, and deployed to South Vietnam in late 1968. He was assigned as an Infantry Platoon Commander, Delta Company, 1st Recon Battalion, 3d Marine Division. Second Lieutenant Schanck was involved in combat operations throughout his assignment and was wounded in March 1969 from a land mine explosion while on a combat patrol. He received the Bronze Star with “V” and Purple Heart for his heroic actions and wounds suffered during the firefight.
Citation – Bronze Star with “V” Device
For meritorious service in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division from 18 March to 21 June 1969. Throughout this period, Second Lieutenant Schanck performed his demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner. Participating in five long-range reconnaissance patrols deep into enemy controlled territory, he was instrumental in obtaining valuable information concerning hostile activities.
On 8 April, he led a patrol into an area where another patrol had made contact with the enemy the previous day. When a concealed hostile explosive device was detonated, Second Lieutenant Schanck and two of his men were wounded. Ignoring his own painful injuries, he assisted the other two casualties to a position from which they could be medically evacuated. During an extended operation from 13 May to 27 May, his platoon provided tactical planners with a vast amount of significant information on the enemy and Second Lieutenant Schanck directed Marine artillery fire and air strikes against the hostile forces, accounting for five enemy soldiers killed.
On 21 June, when the helicopter in which his patrol members were being transported, came under intense hostile small arms fire as it approached the insertion landing zone and crashed, Second Lieutenant Schanck was mortally injured. Second Lieutenant Schanck’s superb leadership, professional ability and unwavering devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
In July 2000, a new “Challenge Course” at Camp Yawgoog Scout Reservation was dedicated to Boy Scouts who served their country. Second Lieutenant Garry Schanck Jr, US Marine Corps, is remembered with a rappelling tower named in his honor. Earlier, the LT William G. Schanck Jr. Memorial Bridge on Route 44 in Chepachet, Rhode Island was named in his memory.
Later, LTC Paul Helweg ’70 established the 2LT William G. Schanck Jr., USMC, Award to honor the memory of Garry Schanck. The award is presented annually to a senior ROTC cadet who best exemplifies the sense of duty, honor and selfless service of Second Lieutenant William G. Schanck Jr., USMC.
Lieutenant Schanck Jr. was buried with full military honors at the family plot, in the Acotes Hill Cemetery, Gloucester, Rhode Island. Lieutenant Garry Schanck Jr. is a true Rhode Island hero in every sense of the word. He answered the call to service during the Vietnam War and gave his life in service to Rhode Island and America.