ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The story of yet another car break-in in the area around the Gateway Arch comes with a new and sad twist. The victim, in this case, is a United States Marine, and what he has lost cannot be replaced.
Sgt. Ethan Stoeckel and his wife Kaitlin had been visiting her family in Central Illinois, and decided to visit the Arch Grounds while waiting for a plane out of St. Louis. It was April 10, around noon.
The parked in a lot right along the river, directly across from the Gateway Arch. The parking lot had an attendant. It seemed like a perfectly safe place to park, but it wasn’t. They returned to their pickup truck, where their luggage had been locked in the cab, and found everything was gone. Stoeckel’s uniforms and medals he had earned were among the stolen items, but there was more.
“I lost six guys this time,” said of the Afghanistan tour he completed last month, “and one of them was my really close friend. And I had a coin he had given me that I was gonna give my dad.”
And that wasn’t the only memento of his friendship with that buddy, a Texan named Joseph Logan.
“I had pictures on my phone that was only on my phone of my best friend and like I said, I’ll never see ‘em again,” he lamented. “We had patches made up, we will never forget patches. And I had one of eight and I’ll never see that patch again.”
When police were called, they admitted to the couple there is little they can do. Officer’s call the car break ins some of the most frustrating of crimes. They ask people parking in the area to take valuables with them, but the Stoeckel’s say that’s tough when you’re traveling.
“I don’t know what we were supposed to do,” Kaitlin Stoeckel said. “Go into the arch with all our luggage and valuables? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Of course to Ethan Stoeckel, hardly any of this makes sense.
“Pretty messed up when you come back from Afghanistan fighting for everybody’s freedom and one of the guys you’re fighting for steals everything you have that really means stuff to ya,” he said.
Stoeckel has served two tours in Afghanistan. He spoke to us via Skype from Hawaii where he is currently stationed. He’s preparing to re-enlist, and hopes to become a Marine drill instructor.