The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 16, 2013

Vet who saved many in Iraq couldn’t escape demons

(Continued)

The night before, his Army pals flew in from around the country and toasted their buddy with prodigious amounts of scotch and rum. They shared favorite Pete stories and placed his urn on the table, covering it with a Motorhead T-shirt.

Later in the hotel room near Fort Snelling National Cemetery, McNabb mulled over how to leave a legacy for his friend’s kids — a memorial that would give them peace and make them proud. But he was limited to 30 characters for the message on Pete’s headstone. How do you honor a life in a handful of words?

McNabb then remembered something Linnerooth had once told him: “Maybe we’re all meant for just one great deed and we’re done.”

That gave him an idea.

The next day, on a 4-degree, cloudless morning, Capt. Peter J.N. Linnerooth was laid to rest with taps and a 21-gun salute.

McNabb presented Linnerooth’s son, Jack, with his father’s Bronze Star, telling him: “Don’t forget your dad was so very proud of you.”

After the mourners met for lunch and more reminiscences, a small group of Army friends who’d served with him in Iraq returned to the unmarked stone as the sun lowered in the winter sky.

McNabb leaned over a long arm, tapped the marble and addressed Pete:

“You owe me a ---- ton of beers when I see you next,” he said with a smile.

Then he surveyed the surrounding graves, calling out to Pete those buried nearby, when they served and in what branch of military. These were now his neighbors.

“You’re with all these people who’ll love you for all time,” he said.

It was finally time to go.

On a February day, the engraved headstone arrived. It’s etched with Peter Linnerooth’s name, his military service and a tribute to his great deed, summed up in this spare epitaph:

HE SAVED MANY

NOW HE’S HOME.

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