Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.
“I don’t believe in coincidence anymore,” said Ray Rechtin. That’s the reason he and his wife founded “Bill’s Kids,” in memory of their late son and soldier Bill.
Bill Rechtin always had a heart for service and kindness, according to his grade school classmate, Father Michael Hennigen. During his deployment in Iraq in 2008, he told his parents he only wanted one thing in his care package from home — paper and pencils for the Iraqi children.
The Rechtin family, after Bill’s death in a house fire in the summer of 2014, established an organization that provides school supplies for ACUE (Alliance for Catholic Urban Education) schools in the Diocese of Covington.
Why ACUE? Mr. Rechtin said that a mere four days after their son’s death, he and his wife were looking for a way to honor his memory when a representative from ACUE schools spoke after Mass at their parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Burlington.
“The first round of school supplies and donations was in lieu of flowers or donations for the funeral,” explained Mr. Rechtin. It expanded from there. The Rechtins hope to preserve Bill’s passion for service and education of the young. Father Hennigen celebrated Bill’s funeral at their request in the Rechtin’s home parish.
The Rechtins chose the ACUE schools because their spirit reminded them of their son. ACUE schools exist in the diocese’s urban core, which has been identified as mission territory of the diocese. The teachers and students at ACUE schools face many challenges, and it is with determination that they succeed. Similarly, Bill Rechtin wasn’t always the admired National Guard and United States Special Force member that he became.
Mr. Rechtin shared that Bill was picked on and bullied as a child, but “it didn’t matter. He’d always fight for the little guy.” He could be tremendously patient when working toward a goal, even if it didn’t seem achievable.
Because he was picked on, he cracked a vertebra in his neck and was told he would never be able to play contact sports or join the military. Mr. Rechtin said this was devastating for Bill because he always wanted to join the Special Forces. “He always came back to that goal,” said Mr. Rechtin.
Bill finally found his way to serve others in active duty. During his junior year of high school, a recruiter advised him not to tell anyone about the injury if it wasn’t causing him pain and wouldn’t be a hindrance.
From that point on, he developed a workout plan and a diet — he went from barely being able to lift 100 pounds to working out with 300 pounds. Through ROTC, he joined the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2008.
It was during this time that he asked for paper, pencils and coloring books from his parents that he gave to the local children.
Several years later, Bill finally accomplished his dream of qualifying for the Special Forces. Mr. Rechtin shared that 75 percent of the people who try out for Special Forces don’t pass the qualifying course for physical, mental or emotional capability.
During the running portion of the test, Bill twisted his ankle but refused to give up and still finished in the top 10. He walked on the ankle for a week without betraying a limp because he refused to be dismissed.
“His story reveals that you can overcome difficulty with determination. If you want to do it, you can do it,” said Mr. Rechtin. “If you look at the success rates of these (ACUE) schools, it shows that there’s a determination about them. They have what it takes to not give up.”
Mr. Rechtin also said Bill never wanted publicity for his service or his accomplishments. “He was incredibly humble,” he said.
On Feb. 25, Mr. Rechtin made the latest delivery of school supplies to Holy Cross School in Covington. Mr. Rechtin believes Bill’s Kids carries on Bill’s legacy of pursuing goals with deep-seated care for others.
“I hope that teachers know someone cares about what they’re doing,” he said. “I hope that kids learn that someone cares because I think that the greatest gift you can give someone is the heart, the personal touch.”
“Bill’s memory tells the kids to never give up, no matter what. Be an everyday hero.”