What Do You Say At A Time Like This?

by James Glaser
November 19, 2003

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.

Dale Panchot

When a person joins the Army or Marines, they take a oath. They promise to defend our country, obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the officers appointed over them.

People here at home can argue and debate weather this war in Iraq is right or wrong, but those serving in our armed forces must continue to do their job where ever our country sends them.

Many people will tell you that Dale Panchot died defending his country, but people that have been to war will tell you that he died defending something more honorable than that. Dale Panchot died defending the men and women he served with. Wars can be right or wars can be wrong, but protecting the people close to you in a war is always right.

In the military, a 110% effort is required by everyone in your unit if you want most of them to make it home. Dale gave every thing he had, nobody can ask for more than that.

For the rest of their lives, Dale will always be on the minds of those that served with him. He will never get any older. Every time some one says the word Iraq or any time it gets real real hot out, all of the men and women he served with will be thinking of Dale Panchot, because he was willing to give his life so that they might live.

No matter how hard we think about it, we will never know why this death had to happen. Why this Soldier and not that one. All we have to know is that Mr. Panchot died defending the oath he gave and those people in his unit, over in Iraq.

Back here in Northome, Dale's loss will be hardest for his mom and dad, sister and brother. All we can do for them right now is pray and be as understanding of their grief as we can. We will always remember Dale and his name will be added to the list of those from this area that gave their all while serving their country.

The students were very attentive in the gym. One of Dale's teachers started out with the announcement that Dale Panchot, Class of 1996, had been killed serving in the Army in Iraq. Next we said the Pledge of Allegiance, which they say every morning, Taps were sounded and then the school band played the National Anthem. To my surprise I was the only speaker and it was hard because Taps always choke me up. I guess I was the only speaker bacause nobody else could figure out what to say either. The students listened to me, everyone was very somber, every class filed out of the gym in silence, the Principal and a few teachers thanked me, and I went home.

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.

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