Alaska editorial: The effect of the first combat death in Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2005

This editorial appeared in Friday's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

The combat death of a young U.S. Marine from Salcha brought to life an occurrence that many, whether to slight or great degree, likely suspected would happen at some point during the war in Iraq. Until Lance. Cpl. Jeremiah Kinchen died in an explosion during combat activities on Monday, no Alaska resident had died in battle in Iraq.

Alaska was about the last state to incur a combat death of one of its residents during the Iraq war, remarkable given the military nature of this state. And none of the military personnel sent into the conflict from bases in Alaska has been killed in combat, either. Again, remarkable.

And because of that, the death of the young Salcha lance corporal, a 2001 graduate of Eielson High School and whose family has lived in Salcha for several years, might stir a wider number of people. Alaska really is a small state, and the loss of one of its own won't pass without causing a broad ripple.

This casualty might lead some people to view the war in a different way. It might cause others to realize that the fighting and exploding is not just a nightly television show from a distant land and with no real meaning for them. It might lead still others - especially friends and family of those about to be deployed to Iraq from Fort Wainwright and those living here but with family or friends serving in Iraq from other states - to pray.

Lance Cpl. Kinchen, by the accounts that have arrived so far, felt at home in the Marines and was skilled in the dangerous task of reconnaissance. He had been in Iraq less than a month when the explosion in Anbar province, the volatile desert region west of Baghdad, claimed him.

Alaskans will mourn his passing.

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