Jimmy McHale Gravesite

We tend to remember it as something that affected new York, Washington and a remote field in Pennsylvania.

It also impacted small towns, such as Fairfield, Montana.

On Saturday, 9/11, I visited the grave of Sgt. Jimmy McHale. Jimmy died as the result of injuries sustained while serving in Iraq on July 30, 2008. He was a young man from Fairfield.

He was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was part of the “Global War on Terror” that came about as the result of 9/11.

I went there on Saturday just to touch his marker and say “thank you.”

While reporting on his story in 2008, I was walking around town taking photos of the memorials to Sgt. McHale that had appeared all over town.

I spotted an Army Sergeant First Class (SFC), walking along a sidewalk, in uniform. He was a little older that most of the men we see in uniform - about my age. He was taking photos of every flag along the street. Now, bear in mind that the flags often fly in Fairfield, Montana. Lots of them.

I walked up and started talking with SFC Sestina. I asked why he was taking photos of the flags around town. He explained to me what our flag means to a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine. If you don’t know, find a soldier or veteran and ask.

SFC Sestina explained to me that he had come to Fairfield to represent his son, who had served with Jimmy McHale in Iraq. His son, he told me, had said that Sgt. McHale would always talk about what a great place Fairfield, Montana is. He talked about the lifestyle here. And the people. And the scenery.

SFC Sestina said his son, and others who served with McHale, doubted if Fairfield was really that great.

SFC Sestina had been in town for a couple of days, and the next day he and his wife came by my office for a chat.

I asked the Sergeant First Class, “You’ve been in Fairfield for several days now. Your son asked you to come here to represent you at Jimmy’s funeral. Now that you have seen our community, what will you tell your son about Jimmy’s home town?”

SFC Sestina said, “I told my son that Fairfield is exactly how Jimmy said it was.”

Before he headed out the door, I thanked SFC Sestina for his service, as well as for the service of his son. To my surprise, the Sgt. said to me, “Thank you for your service.” I appreciated the kind words, but I told him, “I’m just a small town newspaper publisher.”

He replied, “You fight the enemy over here. We’ll take care of the enemy over there.”

We’re all in that fight.