Schrank is medically retiring from the Marine Corps and considering a career in renewable energy.Shrank, 33, has twice been diagnosed with a rare cancer affecting his tear glands and brain. But despite his own battle for survival, Schrank works tirelessly to inspire Marines and help others who have cancer.
In recent years he has lost his left eye and parts of his skull as doctors have worked to treat him. While undergoing aggressive treatment, Schrank received the highest recorded dosages of standard and experimental radiation therapies.
“Gunny Schrank has used his adversity to inspire others,” wrote Navy Capt. Edward Martin, Schrank’s commanding officer, who nominated him for Marine of the Year. “While it would have been perfectly understandable for [him] to have focused on himself during his extensive cancer treatments, he chose to do just the opposite and focused on others.”
Schrank remained on active duty during his ordeal. He also writes two blogs aimed at supporting military and nonmilitary cancer survivors and ran in the “Men’s Health Urbanathlon” — an 11.76-mile race through Chicago, plus an obstacle course — while still recovering from the effects of chemotherapy. He used the race as an opportunity to raise about $22,000 to found C.STAR, a nonprofit cancer support organization.
“I have a fifty-fifty chance of making it through the next three years. This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Schrank wrote in response to his nomination. “I have had the opportunity to affect people’s lives in both the Marine Corps as well as my community in a way not possible without this adversity.”
Ran a Bible study group in Afghanistan in his off time.
Duarte began 2009 by deploying to Japan on the heels of a combat tour in southern Afghanistan with Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In Afghanistan, he earned several medals, including a Bronze Star, for organizing a resupply route that served as the sole lifeline for hundreds of Marines in Garmsir. He regularly drove mine-laden roads to deliver supplies to units engaged in daily firefights with the enemy.
But it is his concern and care for the Marines under his command, not his medals, for which he is best-known. “I have never worked with or seen a senior enlisted Marine more invested in his Marines,” wrote 1st Lt. Crystal Serrano, who nominated Duarte for Marine of the Year after working with him in Okinawa. “He devotes himself to mission accomplishment and troop welfare.”
Despite the abrupt transition from the battlefield to a new garrison in Okinawa, Duarte embraced his new post and began coordinating companywide volunteer activities to clean up public spaces in Okinawa. He also inspired Marines under his command to coach children’s soccer and tutor kids at local schools.
He returned to Afghanistan in March to support operations in Marjah, Helmand province, after field commanders requested him by name for his detailed knowledge of the region.