Rural Nebraskans know it’s almost impossible to have your hometown mentioned in national news publications or broadcasts unless a tragedy is involved.
Hardly anyone had heard of Pilger, Neb., until it was nearly destroyed last year by a tornado. Even then, the headlines beyond our state borders lasted only a few days. In tornado alley, your weather-related tragedy often is quickly knocked off the front page by someone else’s monster storm.
Sadly, my hometown of Wilcox, Neb., has been newsworthy this week because one of the pilots on the U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that crashed while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nepal was a Wilcox native.
Capt. Dustin “Dusty” Lukasiewicz was featured in a video shot just a few days earlier about the Marines’ work in Nepal. He narrated the story of how they were delivering food and tarps to people in remote mountain villages and ended the video with, “We stand with Nepal.”
Dusty graduated from Wilcox-Hildreth High School in 2003. My nephew, Scott, was a K-12 classmate and the boys were close friends. I heard Scott talk about doing things with Dusty over the years, and they were groomsmen in each other’s wedding.
I called Scott Friday and got him to tell me some stories about Dusty. They played side-by-side on the offensive line on their eight-man football team, went hunting and, with another classmate, bought an old beat up pickup that they drove through pastures and on other adventures.
Both boys are grown men now with families of their own. Scott has a 2-year-old boy and baby girl born in late February. Dusty has a young girl and his wife is expecting their second child in June.
The news of Dusty’s death is a reminder of the dangers involved in military service, even when the work is humanitarian in nature, not war.
It also puts a focus on why the Marines are there. Every family in Nepal who lost loved ones, homes and their livelihoods is feeling the same pain as the families of the U.S. Marines lost in the helicopter crash.
It’s a reminder for journalists that the stories we cover about deaths, storm damage, fires and other tragedies involve real people and not just characters in a story. The Bible’s instructions to treat others as we would want to be treated should apply to covering such hard news stories.
Until the bodies of the six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers killed in the shadow of Mount Everest are retrieved, brought to their hometowns and laid to rest, Wilcox probably will be mentioned in the national news.
And I’m sure the video featuring the Wilcox kid everyone called Dusty, with the difficult-to-pronounce last name, will be shown and watched online thousands of times.
Someday, it probably will be used to help tell two young children why their dad was a special man who served his country well.