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Army medic dies of Afghanistan injuries

Nov. 26, 2012 - 05:06PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 - 05:06PM  |  
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ROCKFORD, Mich. A 24-year-old Army medic from western Michigan who enlisted in the military because of the poor job market in 2009 died from injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan, it was announced Monday.

Spc. Zachary Shanafelt of Grand Rapids was hurt in an accident last year and died Wednesday at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, said Pederson Funeral Home in Rockford. He was serving as a field medic with a unit based in Fariyab province.

Shanafelt underwent treatment at hospitals in Germany and the U.S., according to Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Arnold, a military liaison official.

Shanafelt was a 2006 graduate of Creston High School and enlisted in 2009.

"He was a great role model," Lt. Col. Don Robinson, an instructor with the Junior ROTC program at the school, told">

Shanafelt participated in the ROTC program for four years, where he was the top-ranked member at the school and was the battalion commander.

"He had a ribbon rank that makes mine look like a rookie," Robinson said, describing him as "a super kid."

"He really took it on by himself," Robinson said.

Shanafelt's survivors include wife Marina, 13-month-old son Daniel, parents Patrick and Gloria Shanafelt, and brothers Christopher and Silas Shanafelt, a Navy petty officer.

Father Patrick Shanafelt is a Marine veteran, but Zachary wasn't planning a military career when Robinson knew him, the instructor said.

"His goals were to continue his education and get a job," Robinson said.

But facing a tough job market, the younger Shanafelt sought out his help in applying to the Army in 2009. Robinson said the two stayed in touch through Facebook, and Shanafelt would ask how the ROTC program was going.

Visitation for Shanafelt is 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Pederson Funeral Home in Rockford. His funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday at the home.

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