Sunday, January 28, 2007

Two Sons: One for God; One for Country


They laid a fallen soldier to rest on that sun-drenched summer afternoon. They celebrated his life and mourned his death, and his best friend gave the eulogy. A six-man honor guard took the flag-draped casket out of the church, and the red, white, and blue flew at half-staff throughout Mankato. Hundreds of people lined the procession route with hands over their hearts, and they played “Taps” at the cemetery and fired guns in salute. But before all that, the brothers brought the casket into the church—the four surviving Fasnacht boys of Janesville, separated by 13 years but bonded by grief. They helped carry the coffin, bearing their brother from the silver hearse into the sanctuary.

Twenty-five-year-old Michael John Fasnacht died where too many American soldiers die these days, in Iraq, on June 8, 2005, killed by a remote-controlled bomb. He was decorated: a Ranger, a basic-training honor graduate, first in an ROTC platoon that included 44 cadets. He was a leader: a first lieutenant in charge of more than 30 men in Iraq. And he was tough. But he didn’t have a need to prove it, which somehow made him even tougher. Mike looked tough, too. His brown hair, worn in perpetual bed-head style during his days at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (JWP) High School, had been shaved off. His muscles rippled under his black Army T-shirt. In Iraq, after his death, they even named a gym after him—the Iron Mike Fitness Center. He was a recruiter’s fantasy, the epitome of a warrior.

To Matt Fasnacht, though, he was just the kid brother. Matt and Mike—five years apart—had grown up together, wrestling and arguing, laughing and partying. Years later, they shared an apartment in Mankato, while Mike studied microbiology at Minnesota State University and Matt worked as a commercial artist. Matt had watched Mike turn from runt into Ranger, from boy into man.

But their paths diverged. One Fasnacht boy joined the military, armed with a gun, pledged himself to his country. The other went to seminary, took up a chalice, pledged himself to God. You follow your calling. [....snip] Minnesota Monthly Tip O' the Hat to Susan@SMU

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