Death brings war closer | SteamboatToday.com

Death brings war closer

Iraq casualty hits home in Hayden

Nick Foster

— Having a community member die from a war that seems so distant has brought the Iraqi conflict much closer to home, Hayden residents say.

Army Staff Sgt. Mark Lawton of Hayden was killed Friday in Iraq, when his convoy was ambushed and hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Sam Haslem said he is saddened by the passing of a fellow Hayden resident. It is not the first time a casualty of war has hit close to home.

Haslem has a long history of friends and family in the military. Four generations of his family have volunteered for the U.S. armed forces, including his father and uncle during World War II, and he and his brother during the Korean War. Haslem said his family has had several friends die in combat.

“It’s tough, but he was fighting for freedom,” Haslem said. “And I think it’s a worthy cause.

“The little community is 100 percent behind the family as far as I can see. That’s what I like about this community.”

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Haslem’s Spruce Street neighbor, Joe Sorholus, shares the same sentiment. He said the war in Iraq is a worthy cause, and Lawton’s death has not changed his opinion, even though his son has been in Iraq since March.

“My son takes risks too, so it’s hard,” Sorholus said. “Every time you see something on TV, you hope the phone rings soon, but you hope it’s not one of those sad calls.”

Sorholus said his son calls home about once every two weeks.

News of the tragedy has prompted several students to talk more about the distant war, Hayden High School social studies teacher Ty Zabel said.

“A high school student is concerned with what is around him, not around the world,” Zabel said. “Then all of a sudden, we’re at war, and students are asking, ‘how did we get there?’ or ‘why are we there?’ I think (Lawton’s death) will bring back their interest with the war, unfortunately.”

Zabel said he devotes at least five minutes of class time every day to current events, and several students ask questions that are perplexing even to him.

“Perplexing” is exactly what Crandell Avenue resident Russ Kopsa calls the situation in Iraq. He says it is frustrating that there is no finite answer to the terrorism problem, but he believes the U.S. government is doing the right thing.

“It’s very frustrating that there have been more G.I.s killed since the war was over,” Kopsa’s wife Pauline said.

John and Alice Carroll have been affected by Lawton’s death. John Carroll worked with Lawton at Twentymile Coal Company, and Alice Carroll is friends with Lawton’s wife, Sherri.

Alice Carroll said Sherri worked as a liason of sorts for the wives of Lawton’s company, informing them of the latest updates from the front line. She said she was the one who kept spirits up among those families.

John Carroll said Mark Lawton’s military manner could be seen in his personality and heard in his tone: “He talked about it, and he loved it.”

Lawton volunteered to serve in Iraq.

“Whether we like it or not, they’re over there fighting,” John Carroll said.

“The loss of life is tragic, but it’s part of it,” said Mike Letlow, a neighbor of the Carrolls. “It never really strikes home, though, until someone from home is a part of it.”