Soldier's body to return home Tuesday

Andy Kravetz

Officials with the Roanoke-Bension School District say they are cancelling school Friday for the funeral service of Pfc. Phillip Pannier, an alumnus who was killed last week in Iraq.

High school Principal Mark Zotz said the decision to cancel school was made out of respect to the family. Pannier was a 2006 graduate of Roanoke-Benson High School.

"It’s difficult to have class while the funeral is going on," he said, noting that by cancelling school for all grades, it’s easier to make up a day at the end of the year.

The funeral service will be in the high school gym at 10 a.m. Visitation will be on Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Knapp, Johnson & Harris Funeral Home, 204 W. Husseman St., Roanoke.

Several hundred people are expected, including representatives of Pannier’s unit, the 101st Airborne Division. A spokeswoman from the 101st said three soldiers will travel from Fort Campbell, Ky., to represent the unit.

Also expected are Eureka High School students who played football with Pannier, who was a defensive lineman his last two years of high school.

Pannier, 20, of Washburn was killed Jan. 8 while conducting combat operations in Samarra, a city in the north-central province of Salahuddin, while serving with the 101st. Two others in the unit also died, and two were wounded, according to media reports.

Zotz said the decision was made to have the service in the school gym because there are few other places in the area that can accommodate such a large number of people.

Pannier’s body is expected to return to the area this morning and as it makes its way to the funeral home, people are planning to honor his memory by gathering along area roads.

In Metamora, Village President Paul Kouri encouraged people to come out between 10:30 and 11 a.m. on Illinois Route 116 to pay tribute to Pannier.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday he planned on attending the funeral. He noted Pannier was in eighth grade when terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Upon graduation, he volunteered to defend our democracy. I think that it was clear to me, just reading about his life, that he had a servant’s heart. From Future Farmers of America to playing on the football team to helping people in the community, he was a special young man that we should remember," Quinn said.

Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or