Friedberg-based soldier's death called 'one of those small-town tragedies'
Stars and Stripes June 19, 2003
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — In Manhattan, Ill., flags are flying at half-staff for Pvt. Shawn Pahnke.
Now, the 3,100 or so people in this town near Chicago are waiting for him to come home.
Pahnke (prounced PANK-kee), 25, was killed Monday night outside Baghdad, the 50th American soldier to die in Iraq since May 1. Pahnke was assigned to the Friedberg, Germany-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, part of the 1st Armored Division‘s 1st Brigade.
He was on patrol, riding in the back of an unarmored Humvee when a sniper shot him in the back at about 11:50 p.m., according to military officials and media reports.
Family, friends and residents “are basically awaiting word” of when Pahnke will return, said Karen Cimarolli, assistant to Shawn Pahnke’s father, Tom Pahnke, Manhattan’s village administrator.
When his body arrives, plans are to bury him at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, the veterans’ cemetery in nearby Ellwood, Cimarolli said.
“It’s hit very hard here. Even police officers knew him as a little boy,” she said. “It’s one of those small-town tragedies for people here.”
What may be most difficult for family, friends and neighbors to deal with is that Shawn Pahnke died without seeing his son, Cimarolli said.
The soldier, fresh out of boot camp, left for Germany on March 16. His son, Dean, was born March 20.
“Shawn called from Germany at the exact moment his wife was in labor,” Cimarolli said. “They gave her a cell phone in the delivery room. So she got to talk with him, and they heard the baby’s first cry together.
“But, he never got to see his son. Unfortunately, his son will never know him.”
Although he and his wife, Elisha, 25, lived in Shelbyville, Ind., Shawn Pahnke grew up in Manhattan, a bedroom community of about 3,100 people outside of Chicago. A graduate of Lincolnway High School, he was the third generation of soldiers in his family.
Tom Pahnke, Shawn‘s father, is a Vietnam veteran, and Shawn’s grandfather served in World War II, Cimarolli said. Manhattan is a place closely tied to the military, and 26 soldiers from the area are overseas. In the village offices, there is a list where locals can send gifts, thoughts and prayers to their troops. There was a May 17 Support the Troops rally attended by state lawmakers where Tom Pahnke spoke of his son’s service.
Since news of the death, people have been calling, Cimarolli said.
“Everybody just wants to give their condolences. They’re just waiting for word.”
A memorial is planned in Baghdad, but no other details were available Wednesday evening.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.