Getting it right
Published: September 10, 2012
Words are a writer’s tools, and it’s important to me to use the appropriate ones. Names are among the most important of all words, so it’s especially crucial to get those right. I don’t always, as a soldier stationed in Kuwait recently pointed out.
She wrote a gracious letter to Stars and Stripes to point out a glaring error in Spouse Calls. The letter was forwarded to me, and the soldier allowed me to print excerpts of our correspondence:
As a deployed soldier I rely on Stars and Stripes to keep me in the loop with the outside world, just as many other soldiers do. My daily routine consists of stuffing crappy eggs and muddy coffee down my throat as fast as possible and grabbing today’s edition of Stars and Stripes as I rush out the chow hall door to work in the morning. …
I’ve come across a few articles that have been published about our good friend from home (in Rhode Island) Sgt. Dennis Weichel, a soldier who was crushed by an MRAP in Afghanistan. He was originally an infantryman and later re-classed to food service. Upon notification of our deployment, with the cooks being left behind, he volunteered to go with our infantry unit instead.
So far I’ve found a quick mention of the incident (March 29), a longer (story) in May, and one on Stripes’ front page (Aug. 23) that has a picture of his son, Nick, watching him being buried. It’s really nice to know that someone outside of Rhode Island even noticed.
Today as I searched his name on stripes.com, I came across an article titled, “Hollywood Has Our Number” (Spouse Calls, May 22.) Upon reading I noticed that it touched on that subject, but his name was listed as “Daniel” Weichel instead. The paragraph was to point out that the media gives so much attention to malice, but never really heroism. I thought it was funny that whoever it was that meant to make this point seemed to do so somewhat poorly.
I know that things happen and that paragraph only went to show that his story hasn’t gotten much publicity, so in turn I guess the author did in a way prove her point … at least she bothered to make a point about the story, anyway. And she is absolutely right. I thank you all for not only noticing, but caring …
— Spc. Kristen Tanzi
I’m thankful that Spc. Tanzi pointed out my egregious mistake, so that I can correct it and tell more of Dennis Weichel’s story.
The Rhode Island guardsman died on March 22 after being struck by an armored vehicle. The accident occurred when an Afghan child ran into the path of the large vehicle. Weichel, 29, a father of three, was hit when he rushed in to push the child to safety, according to Army reports. The child was unhurt.
Back in December, a Providence, R.I., newscast captured part of Weichel’s last visit home, when he surprised two of his children at school by returning from Afghanistan in time for Christmas.
The video, found at WPRI.com, is the most joyous scene that will ever break your heart. Weichel’s son and daughter hold on to him, saying, “Daddy,” over and over, oblivious to the TV reporter trying to conduct an interview.
“These are obviously the most important things to me, my kids,” Weichel said to the camera. On that happy occasion, 8-year-old Nick said having his dad home was “awesome.” He wore a camouflage hoodie.
It might be the same one in the AP photo Weichel’s buddies saw on Stripes’ front page last month. In that news image, the little boy in the Army-green jacket holds a folded flag and stands by his father’s casket.
It’s a good day to remember the name of Sgt. Dennis P. Weichel Jr., and the names of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have given their lives for someone else, and to honor the sacrifices of their families too.
May we always remember.