Friday's Weekend Column
The Worst Job In The World

by James Glaser
November 21, 2003

I have had some bad jobs in my life, but nothing came close to Lieutenant Daniel L. Price's job. Lieutenant Price is the Casualty Assistance Officer for the Minnesota National Guard. His job is to tell a family that their loved one has died while in the service. He then has to stay and assist that family all the way through the funeral.

If it takes a week or if it takes a month Lt. Price stays to help that family any way he can. Sometimes is takes a long time to get that body home.

This Officer came to our town to represent our military and help the Panchot family, whose son Dale, was killed in Iraq last Monday. He knows no one here and had no idea of the reception he would get. Rural Northern Minnesota has a long tradition of sending young men and women off to America's wars. Our community has lost many to combat in the first and second World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. We had a lot of people serving in the first Iraq war and luck was with us in that one, but not in this second one. My VFW Post is named after Larry McKenzie, a local young man that was killed in Vietnam and the American Legion Post is named after two soldiers killed in WW I. That was the War, to end all Wars.

The Panchot Family has their own military tradition. Dale's dad Arlin was in the Army as was his Grandfather Melvin. Melvin has been a member of our VFW for years. So the whole community welcomes Lieutenant Price and thanks him for his help.

We don't know at this time when the funeral for Dale will be. We do know that it will be at the High School, as that is the only facility big enough. People will be coming from miles away. People that never met Dale or his family will be here so that they can show respect for a fallen Soldier.

Just about every veteran I have talked to this week figures that we have lost this war already. We might stick it out over there until we set up some sort of government, but we have lost the respect of much of the world by attacking a country that never attacked us. Most people up here find it distasteful that we are going into homes in the middle of the night and taking suspects off to some prison. Nobody knows what we should be doing, but all agree that if someone kicked in their door in the middle of the night, they would become an enemy for life. Our tactics are making us look like the bad guys.

This is the last weekend for deer hunting. Now is the time that those that haven't filled their tag yet start to worry. Teams of hunters will start driving small areas of woods in order to get the deer to move. The best shots are waiting for the deer to come out. I never like doing this because I really don't trust other people near me with high powered rifles. If I don't get a deer, I don't get a deer.

I don't know if I believe everything about global warming as all of our snow is gone and it has been above freezing for a week now. I like it this way, but without some snow to insulate sewer lines from the cold, many people will have frozen septic lines again this year. I haven't had a snow plow do my driveway for over two winters now and that is fine.

Northern Minnesota is dependent on having cold winters. Loggers need the cold so they can get in wet areas to log. Too much snow early and they can't make woods roads that will freeze without a lot of work. We get a hard freeze, down below zero before we get a lot of snow and you can get to any trees you want to.

Snowmobilers bring lots of cash with them and fill motels, resorts, and restaurants. Also the bars. Thousands of Ice fishermen spend millions of dollars. Ever go in to buy bait? Bet you end up buying more than just some minnows.

The last five years have been hard on those that sell snow machines and snow blowers. If our area gets some good snow, so many come here and start using the trails, they get ruined from over use. I know people with three year old snowmobiles with less than fifty miles on them. Because every one wants to use their machine as soon as there is some snow, the trails are too crowed to be enjoyable. Many people that can afford it trailer their machines out west to the Yellowstone area, so they have a chance for their brand of winter sport.

I was just now looking out at the lake, which has become one huge sheet of smooth ice with no snow on it. Some nut just skated by on long speed skates and looked like he was training for the Olympics. I call him a nut because we have had some real warm weather the last week and there are many areas on the lake with thin ice. Every year several people up here get killed because they trust the ice before it is strong enough. As a kid, I watched my cousin and his mom go through in a pickup truck. They were lucky that they got the doors open before it went through and it stayed up long enough for them to get out and away. We all watched as the truck went down in thirty feet of water. A few hours later they cut a big hole in the ice next to the shore and divers went down and hooked up a cable to the truck. They winched it out, but dragging it over some huge rocks pretty much totaled it.

I still go out on the ice, but I do wait until we have plenty. I like ten inches of solid ice and feel real safe with twenty or more. Up here it is not uncommon to get over four feet of clear hard ice. You can drive a semi across that.

This next week our whole community will be getting ready for Dale Panchots funeral. People will be shopping for the ingredients needed for their best hot dish. Many will be baking bread and rolls and our VFW will get the Honor Guard equipment all ready. This won't be a fun get together, but it is something everyone knows we have to do. Dale and all the troops over in Iraq are working for us. We owe him all the respect and honor we can give to his memory. We have to set an example for the young people of the community on how you treat those that die for America.

Most people up here hope that those in Washington take our hint and start honoring those Soldiers and Marines that are killed in their wars. There is no reason that someone from the House or Senate should not be here. There would be nothing wrong with a representative of the White House attending this funeral. We, American citizens living in small communities all over this country know our duty, why don't those in power know theirs? You vote to send a man to war, you at least owe him the respect to attend his funeral, after all he gave his life for your vote.

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