Shouts and Murmurs: Thinking of soldiers, now and then
Again this week, The Mirror includes a story about local ties to the war in Iraq. When a year ago it appeared a war might be imminent, we knew there would be Tonganoxie connections. But we didn't dream there would be as many as we've since learned about.
Recently, it seems that nearly every week, a reader calls or comes in to give us an update on someone in the military. Days, weeks and months of worry have affected all of us, but nothing like it's hit the family members of military personnel. Homecomings with loved ones, even if only for short leaves, have been joyous events.
Sadly, this week's war story has a tragic ending. It is about an army helicopter pilot who was killed Jan. 8 when a Black Hawk helicopter in which he was a passenger was shot down in Iraq. The officer, Aaron Weaver, was the uncle of Colten and Micaela Weaver, who live near Tonganoxie.
Colten is a first-grader at Tonganoxie Elementary School.
Each day at school the boy sees a reminder of the war. A picture of his father, Braden Weaver, is on the wall in the school hallway, along with about a dozen pictures of other men and women who are serving in the military.
"Waiting For Your Return" is an appropriate name for the school's memorial wall. This week, Colten and his younger sister, Micaela, will get to visit with their father in person while he's here on leave.
And Colten joins his schoolmates in celebrating the return of Jeremy Goebel, the elementary school's physical education teacher who was called into active duty early last year.
Together as a community, as well as individuals, we celebrate the safe return of Goebel, as well as others who are in the service. Welcome back, and to those of you who are not here, may you have a safe return home.
Tonganoxie youths are preparing to participate in a memorial to a military tragedy -- the Bataan Memorial Death March.
On March 21, these Tonganoxie youths will participate in a 26.2-mile walk in New Mexico: Derek Parrett, Jake Heskett, Justin Smith, John Davis and Michael Shaw. Also participating will be some of their fathers, including Doug Parrett, Bill Shaw and Randy Davis.
The walk honors tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers who in April 1942, were forced by the Japanese to march some 80 miles through the Philippine jungles.
Thousands of the soldiers, many of whom were already nearly starved when the march began, died or were killed along the way.
According to the memorial march's Web site: http://www.bataanmarch.com, the Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the memorial march in 1989 in honor of the event. In 1992, White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard joined in the sponsorship and the event was moved to the missile range.
About 4,000 marchers are expected to participate this year.
Karen Parrett said her husband, Doug, a warrant officer with the U.S. Army, first participated in the march five years ago. Two years later, Derek, who was then in the sixth grade, decided to march alongside his father.
And now, Derek, who is a ninth-grader at Tonganoxie Junior High School, is embarking on the walk again, this time with his father, and a group of his friends and several of their fathers, all from Tonganoxie.
To prepare for the trip, the boys and their fathers have been on practice sessions. The first was a five-mile walk, the second, 10 miles, and the next will be 13 miles.
Before they leave, the group will have experienced walking 16 to 20 miles in one day.
Karen Parrett, who has attended the event but not walked the route, said, that each year, some of the original soldiers who marched in the Philippines in 1942, participate.
Even as an observer, it's an unforgettable experience, she said.
"Just being there is such an overwhelming sense of patriotism," Karen added.