Army Pfc. Shane D. PenleyA hero stares back from Eternity.

Another young man has died in Iraq. Just out of high school, Sauk Village native Shane D. Penley died April 6 from wounds suffered while on duty at a guard post. He was 19.

This one hits close to home. Shane graduated from Bloom Trail High School in Steger, IL, and wanted to be a police officer. A senior at Bloom Trail who knew Shane shared the shock with me that students felt when they learned the news. Children meeting adulthood head on, victims of war in our back yard.

The Times in Munster, IN, shares thoughts from Shane’s father, David Penley:

“He always wanted to be a hero,” David Penley said from the family’s Sauk Village home. “He’s our little hero. I’m sure whatever the situation was, he stuck his neck out there. He was very brave, very brave.”

Mr. Penley shared times when he and his son would work out together or play baseball.

“He could run circles around me, even before his training,” he said.

Memories of Shane’s childhood and a former babysitter who called him “Tarzan”:

“I guess because he would run around with his bleached blonde hair, and in his diapers (he looked like Tarzan),” David Penley said.

When we count the total number of soldiers killed in Iraq, the number of Iraqi civilians, the billions spent, watch gas prices spiral out of control, or tally our national debt, we pause and reflect. The big numbers have a story to tell on their own.

But here, the only number that counts is “one”. One more life lost. One too many.

Thank you, Pfc. Penley. Thank you, sir.