The conversation with Patrick Farnan spent all weekend with me. I couldn’t seem to shake the touching words the Weston, Mo. resident shared with me during a phone interview for a story that starts on page 1 of this week’s edition. It continues in the space below.
That’s why I wanted to put some thoughts here in this space that didn’t quite fit with the factual narrative. The City of Weston arranged for a dual display of fallen soldiers, set to run from Monday, July 13 to Sunday, July 19 in buildings on Main Street. The first includes Patrick’s son, Colby Farnan. He’s part of a traveling exhibit that seeks to honor those killed in the line of duty since the September 11 attacks that hail from Missouri.
Remembering Our Fallen will be displayed in Platte County for a fifth time. That is a big enough story there.
But making Colby Farnan a small piece of those honored didn’t seem like enough. Patrick decided to take city officials up on an opportunity to create a display dedicated to his son, killed Feb. 25, 2005 in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Army.
I didn’t know exactly what to ask when I reached Patrick on his cell phone last Thursday. I made some small talk and jokes before getting to the reason for my call.
I wanted to ask him what it meant, how it felt, the emotions involved with the family deciding to take out personal effects collected in the 10 years since Colby Farnan’s death and then to share those with the public.
Patrick Farnan was blunt and honest. His stories were raw and personal. He shared more with me than I would’ve expected in a 10-minute conversation.
I took those words with me to Platte City’s July 4 celebration. I found myself enthralled with the words of retired U.S. Navy Commander Carlton Philpot as he reminded those in attendance to remember the veterans and not just the flag when celebrating on July 4.
The flag, after all, is just a symbol.
I took all of those thoughts with me to my family July 4 celebration and tried to keep all those who served in mind as I took the opportunity to relax and enjoy myself on a day very special to our country. I remembered my grandpas who both served in the Korean War. I thought of my friend Thomas Kay, a North Platte graduate recently out of the U.S. Marine Corps, as I spoke with his parents, his dad Robert a proud veteran himself.
Yet, none of that allowed me truly relate to what Patrick Farnan has gone through since the loss of his son.
We try to empathize with those around us who have lost family members while protecting our freedoms, the freedoms that allowed me to grill out and drink a few beers and play yard games. I don’t like to do any of that without realizing my circumstance could be different, much worse, without so many who heeded the call to duty.
Colby Farnan was one of those kids, and I say kid realizing he graduated a year ahead of me. He would’ve recently celebrated his 33rd birthday.
Instead, Patrick admits to wondering what he would’ve done and accomplished during the 10 years since his death. He will never know the answers to those what-if scenarios, and that clearly weighs on his mind often, so much so that he didn’t mind talking about those moments with me — a complete stranger.
I urge anyone with time to make the trek to Weston some time in the next week. Visit the exhibits, have lunch at a downtown spot, do some reflecting. It never hurts to be reminded that despite all the struggles, we still have it pretty good in the USA with a lot of thanks due to people we knew, people we know and people we will never meet.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.