Archive for Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Tonganoxie soldier, football player will not be forgotten

November 2, 2005

Sept. 14, 2001.

Tonganoxie played Pembroke Hill in a Friday night football game.

Days after terrorists attacked New York City and the Pentagon, players and coaches at THS were holding hands during a moment of silence.

THS coach Mark Elston held on to one of Lucas Frantz's hands. Frantz, during the summer of 2001, enlisted in an Army boot camp.

Just 15 days ago, as I learned about Frantz being killed in Iraq, I thought back to the Sept. 19, 2001, edition of The Mirror and a story I had written about sports teams continuing their seasons after Sept. 11.

As I picked up a copy of that paper, I struggled to read the article aloud.

"It didn't really hit home until the moment of silence," Elston said after the game in 2001. "The kid I'm holding hands with might be defending our country if things escalate. I hope and pray it doesn't come to that. At that point I got a little choked up."

As did I, as I read through the article. It's surreal looking back at that story, but it has happened and a small Kansas town was left to mourn the loss of one of its own.

I didn't really know Lucas Frantz when I covered the football team that fall. It was my first season of covering high school sports at The Mirror, so I still was getting familiar with names and faces.

After speaking with Frantz's relatives and friends, I feel as though I know him much better now.

Loyal, hard-working, caring, cheerful, romantic and even a little mischievous at times -- all these words have been used to describe Frantz. He certainly touched many lives, both in Tonganoxie and in the Army.

From the ceremony in which the THS football team retired Frantz's jersey and number, to the military funeral and graveside services last week, it's clear that Frantz meant so much to Tonganoxie.

I'm grateful to Frantz's in-laws, the Jeannin family, for welcoming me into their home to discuss a topic that so many other media members have contacted them about in recent days.

As I sat with family members in their living room, I heard wonderful, funny stories about Frantz. Naturally, not all stories brought laughter, but the tears, and the laughs, are both important emotions in life.

At one point, Lucas' widow, Kelly Frantz, mentioned that Lucas always wanted to protect her, and wanted to make sure his friends did so as well. As she spoke those words, a family cat moved on to her lap. The cat affectionately nudged Kelly's chin with its face, almost as if to say "I'm here for you, too."

For the past two weeks, Tonganoxie was the metro area's media hotbed.

Television stations came from area cities. Newspapers from different parts of the country called Kelly requesting an interview.

In addition, protestors made their way to the northeast Kansas town as well.

Just a few days later, the scene has dramatically changed.

The flags no longer fly at half-staff.

Television stations no longer are sending camera crews.

Protestors no longer are carrying signs.

Although things appear normal once again, they shouldn't be.

Residents should continue to remember Frantz, the roughly 2,000 troops before him who also have been killed while serving in Iraq and the thousands of other troops still fighting in Iraq, along with the many innocent Iraqis who also have lost their lives.

Whether you side with Toby Keith or the Dixie Chicks; whether you side with Bill O'Reilly or Cindy Sheehan, one thing should remain the same -- support for the troops. The soldiers have no say in what wars the country enters, and they deserve our respect.

As I watched protestors from Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church hold signs scorning soldiers and gays in the name of God, I had mixed emotions.

I was happy to live in a country where their opinions freely could be expressed. I was sad because I've never thought of God as a being filled with such hate for his children.

After seeing the protestors at the football game, I thought about what I would do if I were to again walk near them.

I decided, if faced with the situation, I would sing a hymn.

After deliberating about what hymn would be most appropriate, "Be Not Afraid" suddenly came to mind. As I read the lyrics, it all became clear.

The song gave me comfort as I thought about Iraq, Frantz's family and Fred Phelps.

Thank you, Lucas, and thank you to Lucas' family.

I'm better for knowing you all a little better.

I hope you, too, find comfort in the lyrics of this song.

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.

You shall wander far in safety, though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands, and all will understand.

You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.

I go before you always;

Come follow me,

and I will give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.

If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow'r of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all.

Be not afraid.

I go before you always;

Come follow me,

and I will give you rest.

Blessed are your poor,

for the kingdom shall be theirs.

Blest are you that weep and mourn,

for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you

all because of me,

blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid.

I go before you always;

Come follow me,

and I will give you rest.

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