What Do You Say At A Time Like This?
by James Glaser
The war in Iraq came home yesterday. Sometime in the early afternoon two men in Army uniforms stopped at our only gas station and asked directions to Dale Panchot's parents house. Everyone knew that Dale was in the Army and was serving some place north of Baghdad, A couple of weeks ago there was a picture in the paper of Dale's Grandfather, Melvin Panchot and a group from the nursing home that were sending "care' packages to the troops.
I had talked to Dale's mom and dad several times about his letters and calls home. He had talked about how hot it was and had mentioned rocket propelled grenades several times. About two weeks ago in the Black Bear Drive-in, Arlin, Dale's dad told all of us sitting there that it had now cooled down some in Iraq and was only in the 90s, about thirty degrees cooler than a few months ago. He also said that Dale hoped to get home in late November on a fifteen day leave.
Well everyone's fear became true yesterday, because those two Soldiers were there to tell the Panchot's of their sons death in combat. Last night after dinner Dave Furseth a teacher and a neighbor stopped over and asked me to come to the school in the morning and speak at an all school assembly, They planed to have everyone in the gym and announce Dale's death.
In small towns everyone knows everyone else. Dale graduated from here in 1996 and had lots of cousins and neighbors in the school. His family is from here and all are well thought of. Melvin is a World War ll vet and he and I have done many Memorial Day Services together. In small town America, one family hurts and so does the whole community.
I said that for sure I would be there, not having a clue on what to say. Yes, I am totally against this war and being a Vet, Dale's death and all of the deaths in Iraq really tear me up, but now is not the time or place to rant and rave about war.
I talked to people that I respected like my wife and children, plus several other veterans to get some input or just to bounce ideas off of. I was up late fumbling around with words and this is what I came up with.
I don't know if I said the right words. I don't know if there are the right words for a time like this. Dale's death over in Iraq will hurt this community a lot, but when I think about it, every death in Iraq is hurting another community just like it is ours. Then I think about all the communities in Iraq that have suffered a loss like ours, over and over again for many years.
The people at the top never have to say the words that I did, because they are dealing with the "big picture" and the details, like a Soldier from Northome killed in Iraq, are delegated to an underling. All of those "details" that they pass off to someone else are tearing up families and little communities like ours, all over this country.
Maybe in the "Big Picture," four hundred Americans dying doesn't look like much when you are at the top, but from down here each and every one is a tragedy.
BACK to the Politics Columns.