Thieves Steal Silver Star from Vietnam Veteran “Captain America”

Charles Sankey, Silver Star and Bronze Star recipient (photo courtesy of the Sankey family).

Charles David Sankey was a highly decorated officer, given the nickname “Captain America” by his fellow Army Rangers—and now his medals have been reported as stolen.

Sankey, who passed away at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita last Thursday due to Agent Orange-related diseases, was the recipient of the Silver Star, one of the military’s highest combat medals, as well as numerous other medals for exceptional heroism. After his passing, Sankey’s family returned to his storage unit at Hutchinson Self Storage, only to find that the unit had been burglarized and his most prized possessions, including his Silver Star, Bronze Star and many other medals, had been stolen.

Since there was no noticeable forced entry, the Sankey family believes it may be an inside job or someone who previously had a key to the storage unit. It’s not the first time someone has had problems with theft at the Hutchinson Self Storage facility. Chris Domenico, a user from Wichita, reported the theft of priceless family heirlooms to police after having them stolen from his storage unit a little less than a year ago in 2017.

Calls and emails made to Hutchinson Storage and its owner, Jim Strawn, were not immediately returned.

Not All Superheroes Carry a Shield

"They called him “Captain America” because he was a straight-shooter, a real patriot, and an outstanding self-sacrificing leader,” said Bruce Sankey, Charles Sankey’s older brother. “We hope the thieves just didn’t know what they stole and that they’ll do the right thing and return the medals.

Sankey earned the Silver Star for extraordinary “gallantry in action,” when on April 1, 1969 his unit came under heavy fire from the Viet Cong in Gia Dinh Province, Sankey stood his ground even after being shot a dozen times, saving the lives of 11 soldiers.

Sankey’s official Silver Star citation reads, in part:

While moving in single file near a suspected enemy position, the company was struck by a command detonated mine. After calling for a medevac, Lieutenant Sankey was moving forward to assess the situation when his element was hit by intense rocket, automated weapons and small arms fire.

A rocket exploded near him, seriously wounding him and within 20 minutes, 90 percent of the forward element became casualties. In spite of his wounds, Lieutenant Sankey remained in an exposed position and directed light fire team fire, medevac and ammunition resupply until contact was broken. He refused to be evacuated until the firefight ended and all other casualties were medevaced.

Sankey went right to Vietnam after graduating from Arizona State University in 1967 and spent 21 years in distinguished service to this country—in combat as an elite special forces soldier, teaching at West Point and working as a U.N. peacekeeper on the border of Israel and Lebanon. After the military, he continued his service as a counselor with at-risk youth.

Says Bruce, “My brother was a gifted leader his whole life, from his days as a class president in high school, his days leading men in combat in Vietnam, as a West Point faculty member, to his days mentoring and counseling at-risk youth after his service to the military.”

Reward Offered for Return of Medals

Hutchinson police Detective Lahann says that the police are following up on leads, and the investigation is ongoing.

The Sankey family is offering a $12,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to recovery of “his belongings, most especially his medals.”

Anyone with that information should call the Hutchinson police at (620) 694-2816.

The medals can also be returned anonymously to The Kansas City Star, care of journalist Melinda Henneberger, at 1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri, 64108.

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