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John Justin Hankes

John Justin Hankes

John Justin Hankes, age 96, of Hastings died Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 at the Prescott Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Prescott, WI.

John was born June 11, 1921, in Hastings to Charles and Elsie (Humm) Hankes. He attended Hastings Schools and in 1941 enlisted in the United States Army. In the summer of 1942, a call went out for volunteers who had experience hunting and shooting and John stepped forward.

John became a member of the First Special Service Force, a first-ever blend of 900 U.S. and 900 Canadian troops. This force was the predecessor to the modern day Green Berets, Army Rangers and Navy Seals. It trained at Ft. Harrison in Helena, MT, in 1942 forming an elite commando unit known as "The Devil's Brigade." A major motion picture by that title highlighting the unit's wartime exploits came out in 1968.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to his unit Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington, D.C. John attended along with other former unit members and said he accepted the honor not just for himself, but for the Hastings 5 - home-town men from the unit who are no longer with us, Dale Hamilton, George Hild, Frances Brooke, and Lt. Jimmy Moore. He also accepted the medal on behalf of living brigade comrades who could not attend, those who died since the war, and most importantly, those who never made it home.

John married Delphina "Tina" Peine Sept. 28, 1957, in Hastings. He was a long-time head of security for 3M at the Chemolite plant in Cottage Grove, as well as a Hastings Fire Department volunteer.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Tina, and by 10 brothers and sisters.

He is survived by daughter Brenda Waters, grandchildren Ryan Waters, Flynn Waters and Chea Evans; 8 great grandchildren; special nieces and nephews, Jim Johnson, Deb (Phil) Soucheray, Cindy (Tom) Johnson, Mark Johnson, Shelly (Greg) Christianson, Jay (Jeanne) Johnson; special great nieces and great nephews, Philip Soucheray III, Jake Johnson, Katie Bauer, Mitch Johnson, Angie Weber, Emily Weber, Marty Weber, Nick Johnson, Anne Johnson, Jack Johnson, and Lucy Johnson; and many other relatives and friends.

A visitation for John was held Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, at the Caturia-Smidt Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Hastings. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Hastings. Interment with full military honors provided by Hastings VFW Lyle Russell Post #1210 followed at the parish cemetery. For guestbook and further information, please visit Arrangements are being completed by Caturia-Smidt Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Hastings.