NEWS

Roanoke soldier killed in Iraq

Andy Kravetz

It was the tone of the comments that gave the first clue that something wasn’t right, but only as Wednesday progressed did it become clear that Phillip Pannier, a Roanoke-Benson graduate, really had died while serving in Iraq.

On his online MySpace page as well as the page of his fiance, Jennifer Held, expressions of grief poured in from all over. Most expressed shock; others offered support, but all longed for Pannier, a man who his father said was always thinking about others, back home.

"He always had police work in the back of his mind," said Donald Pannier of Washburn. "He was the type who looked out for others and who wanted to protect people."

An exhausted-sounding Donald Pannier said his family received word of his son’s death Tuesday night when members of the U.S. Army came to his house.

He said he last heard from his son late last week. As always, the younger Pannier was asking about his nieces and nephews. He wanted to know about how things were going at home and how his friends were doing.

And he often professed his love for Held, his father said. On her MySpace page, Phillip Pannier would often leave playful messages to her. Several photos and videos of the two during happier times adorned the two Web sites.

He was a 2006 graduate of Roanoke-Benson High School, where he played football during his final two years there. His father said he wasn’t interested in college and after a great deal of thought, decided upon the Army. He shipped out for basic training in July 2006.

He enjoyed the Army, Donald Pannier said. It gave him a sense of belonging and an identity. "I can’t say he enjoyed his basic training, but he had a smile on his face when he graduated in October 2006," he said.

Phillip Pannier returned home for a few weeks and then left for Fort Campbell, Ky. He left for Iraq in October 2007 for a 15-month deployment.

Growing up, he was active in Future Farmers of America and 4H, where he showed sheep for several years. For eight years, he played alto saxophone.

"He had a bit of country in him but he also liked some rock and roll," his father said.

High school friend Jillian Moritz of Bloomington called Phillip Pannier an incredibly funny person with a great deal of compassion. She remembers him as an avid Dallas Cowboys football fan.

"He was one of the sweetest, funniest and most caring people you will ever meet in your life," said the 19-year-old Moritz.

Funeral arraignments have not yet been made, his father said.

By late afternoon Wednesday, the two MySpace pages had several messages on them. Many were addressed directly to Phillip Pannier, telling him he was a great guy and that he will be sorely missed.

Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or akravetz@pjstar.com.