Donald Pannier will show off a restored 1951 International Harvester tractor in Roanoke parade to honor son killed in Iraq.
Donald Pannier loves old farm tractors, so when he saw the 1951 International Harvester Super C, it was something he wanted.
But it was also something that his son, Phillip, would have wanted. Father and son shared a love for old tractors, whether they were lawn or farm, the older the better. Phillip Pannier, being a scant 20 years old this year, had never really seen the older machinery in action so always got a kick out of going to antique shows, his father said.
Sadly, the young Pannier’s life was cut short this year when the soldier with the 101st Airborne Division was killed Jan. 8 in combat operations in Samarra, a city in the north-central province of Salahuddin in Iraq.
His father bought the tractor after Phillip Pannier died and views it as a way to honor his son. With help from others, he has restored the 57-year-old machine and will show it off Saturday during Roanoke’s Memorial Day parade, which begins at noon and will travel along Main Street. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders will also participate.
"You have to honor the fallen soldier," Donald Pannier said Friday.
Phillip Pannier died while members of his unit were participating in Operation Phantom Phoenix, an effort by coalition forces to drive insurgents out of safe havens in northern Iraq. The Army was investigating whether he and two others in the 101st died from friendly fire.
After weeks, the Pentagon has announced his death was not at the hands of U.S. or coalition forces.
"Pfc. Phillip Pannier died from multiple gunshot wounds as a result of enemy fire. His wounds are not consistent with the U.S. weapons systems capability.
"Additionally, he could not have been shot by friendly forces because the soldiers who were capable of firing at him either did not fire their weapons or did not fire in his direction," Donald Pannier said, reading from the official report.
Media reports of the attack describe a vicious battle in which the soldiers, after finding many weapons and explosives caches, were attacked by several insurgents. Two other members of Phillip Pannier’s unit — Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division — also died that day. Their deaths als were determined not to involve friendly fire.
Donald Pannier said the family will visit his son’s gravesite this weekend, the first Memorial Day since his passing.
"It’s going to be hard, especially the first one," he said. "It’s going to be hard but you have to walk forward with honor. He passed away with honor."
And that labor of love, the 1951 tractor? It and a freshly painted trailer will be adorned with banners and ribbons this weekend and other weekends as Donald Pannier said he plans to use it for other parades and festivals. It’s about honoring his son’s memory and the memory of all veterans, he said.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.