GOOSE LAKE – Wonderful. Great guy, great Marine. Awesome friend. Brother.
Those are the words used Wednesday by friends and fellow Marines of Lance Cpl. Steven Hancock.
“I cannot say enough about Steven Hancock. He was a very well-mannered, hardworking kid who never had a negative thing to say about anyone,” said Jim Cebulski, Hancock’s Grundy Area Vocational Center welding instructor. “I don’t think you could find a single person who had a negative comment to say about Steven.”
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Marine fell from an MV-22B Osprey aircraft, while it was conducting a familiarization training flight Monday evening about 45 miles west of Marine Corps Air Station New River near White Lake, North Carolina, according to a Wednesday’ evening news release from the Marines’ Cherry Point Public Affairs.
Hancock is a 2011 graduate of Coal City High School and the son of Sue and Mike Hancock of Goose Lake.
A search was conducted by military and civilian agencies, and Hancock’s body was spotted about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday by aircraft flying over a search grid. The search aircraft passed the information to law enforcement on the ground, who retrieved the Marine.
The incident remains under investigation, according to the news release. The investigation includes looking into why it took so long for anyone on the flight to notice Hancock was missing, Lt. Hector Alejandro said at a news conference Tuesday, according to Wilmington, North Carolina’s WECT station.
“We understand that many will continue to have questions regarding the cause of this tragic event – and we are committed to investigating it to our utmost ability. We ask only for patience to allow us to conduct it thoroughly, and to give Lance Cpl. Hancock’s family time to properly grieve the loss of this great young American,” the news release stated.
Steven was ‘full of joy’
Hancock was full of joy according to his friends, and spread happiness wherever he was.
“Steven was an incredible person,” Josh Enlow of Morris said in a conversation with Shaw Media through Facebook. “Not once would I ever see him with a frown on his face. He brought joy and an overwhelming feeling of love to everyone he came across, and that’s what I loved about him. He was devoted to helping others, and that in itself is the most amazing characteristic I could ever see out of anyone.”
Friends described Hancock as having tremendous faith in Christ.
“For the short period I knew Steven, he was a great kid,” said Perry Harlow, a member of First Christian Church who attended church with him. “He is a follower of Christ and a faithful man. He is one of the nicest people I have met in my life. He is kind and thoughtful and a great person to hang around.”
Enlow said in a Facebook post to Hancock and his family that he will never forget the love and joy Hancock brought to everyone he met and the influence he had on his life.
“You were an amazing person all around, and a huge influence on my decisions with Christ,” Enlow wrote on Facebook.
Cebulski recalled Hancock as a student in his welding class at GAVC and a participant in the Skills USA state competition in both his junior and senior years, finishing fourth place in the state his senior year.
Hancock came back to visit Cebulski and noticed a change in his former student.
“I remember when Steven came to visit after he completed basic training, and I almost didn’t recognize him,” Cebulski said. “His smile was even bigger than I could remember, and I believe that he found his calling in the military. He was happy.”
A man named Michael Shane Rhodes, who identified himself as a scout or recruiter on various posts, wrote a letter to Hancock on his Facebook wall.
“Steven. I first spoke with you over the phone. The next time I saw you was in my office, 6 months later. You had taken tremendous effort in making yourself qualified for the Marines,” he wrote. “Three days later you were enlisted. You were dependable and a positive influence on all who met you. I mourn the loss of a fine man and Marine. My thoughts and condolences go out to your family. Take heart, Devil Dog. We will eventually meet again when I take a place by your side guarding the gates of heaven. Semper Fidelis Marine.”
Coal City Community Unit School District 1 Superintendent Kent Bugg said the district’s crisis team met Wednesday to decide how to support both students and staff.
Hancock’s mother Sue Hancock is an employee of the district and has worked at two of the district’s schools. Hancock’s sister Mallory graduated Sunday from the high school.
“We put social workers and guidance counselors where they needed to be,” Bugg said. “We will meet again Thursday morning to see if they need to continue.”
Student services will be reaching out to the family to see how they can offer support.
“It’s a subdued climate at school. We are such a close-knit district and community. People want to help,” Bugg said. “We are being respectful of the family at this time. We will be here to help and support them when they need us.”
Bugg said the district is hosting a Memorial Day event at Coal City Intermediate School at 11 a.m. Monday and is looking at how to honor Hancock at the event.