Friday's Weekend Column
A Final Tribute

by James Glaser
December 5, 2003

This last Monday our community had the funeral for Staff Sergeant Dale Aldon Panchot, Sergeant Panchot was killed in combat in Iraq on November 17th of this year. Dale grew up in Northome and this being a small Northern Minnesota town, he knew everybody and everyone knew him.

In fact Dale Panchot was our connection to the war in Iraq. Dale's mom and dad told us what the temperature in Baghdad was and what Dale and his comrades were eating. We heard about Rocket Propelled Grenades before ABC and NBC did. We knew that those grenades were a worry to Dale and then we found that one of them killed him.

On Monday our school was closed and the funeral was held there. I got there early to welcome and direct the many VFW and Legion Posts that were sending Honor Guard Units. The United States Army was there already getting set up for their part. They had members of Dale's unit there and a detail from the National Cemetery at Fort Snelling to be the official Honor Guard.

The soldiers were in one part of the "commons" and the members of the community were in another part with no one talking to each other. I had to be in a Honor Guard while in the Marines, for a Marine killed in action and that community made me feel that they wanted me there and I felt good about doing it.

So, I went over and introduced myself to those men and women in uniform and told them that we had a tradition in Northome, that any time there was a funeral like this one out at the school, the Honor Guard would march to the cemetery. On Monday it was cold, about 19 above with a mean wind coming out of the northwest and the cemetery is about a mile and a half away. Well they looked at me and started thinking real hard because they had everything planned down to the minute with fighter jets flying over the cemetery right after Taps and that marching would throw every thing off schedule.

Twenty minutes later one of those Sergeants came over and said, "You are such a bullshitter." To which I said, "welcome to Northome." It took them twenty minutes to find out that we have never had a military funeral out at the school and our Honor Guard never marches. Everyone laughed and that broke any ice. For the rest of the day I am sure that every man and women in uniform felt that our whole community was real happy that they came to help us out.

Even though many in attendance feel that this war in Iraq is wrong, every one there knew that Sergeant Panchot died trying to defend the troops he was serving with. Our community has been sending men and women off to war since the first settlers moved up here. We have lost many great people in the service of our country and we all know that those that give their lives, are following the orders of Washington.

Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen don't pick which war they are willing to fight in. You sign up to serve your country and part of the deal is that you obey the orders of the President and the Officers above you. Dale Panchot was doing his duty in Iraq. It didn't matter what he thought of this war because when the shooting starts you are defending the men and women in your unit. For the Soldier, war breaks down to small unit operations. Soldiers don't see the big picture, their job is to follow their orders and they must trust that those above them are making the right decisions.

The people up here understand that and they honor the job that our service men and women are doing. Many in our country failed to understand how our military is run and during the Vietnam war the enlisted man that was just doing his job of defending our country was blamed for the failure of our leaders, The leaders walked away and all retired with great government pensions, even though they are the ones that caused the deaths of over 58,000 young Americans and over a 1,000,000 innocent Vietnamese civilians. It always works out that way. Those in power reap the rewards and those in the field like Dale Panchot must suffer.

The funeral was all anyone would want, in paying Military Respect to a fallen Soldier. The Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty gave a nice talk, Brigadier General Mark E. O'Neil, from the Pentagon presented the Panchot family with medals and citations.

At the cemetery the Honor Guard folded the flag and gave it to Dale's mother, there was a gun salute, and Taps were played and then there was the flight of fighter jets, flying in the "missing man" formation.

Over a hundred veterans from every war came to pay their respects and every Post in attendance brought their Colors as a sign of respect. After the funeral everyone returned to the school and the ladies of the community had a lunch set up.

Community members and veterans had a chance to talk to all the Service people that came and many of them said they felt Northome really cared about those in serving our country.

Dale Panchot will be remembered every year at our Memorial Day Service. Dale went into the Army after his junior year in high school. He got boot camp out of the way that year and went active duty as soon as he graduated. Some of those in school now are thinking over the plans they had made about the military. The death of a friend and neighbor can make you think just how serious of a decision signing up is.

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