Monday, June 18, 2007

Zachary A. Grass dies 'of wounds suffered when the vehicle he was in struck an IED'

On Father's Day, Frank Grass wasn't able to celebrate, even though he is a proud father. He was barely able to speak at all.

His sad, blue eyes wet with tears, Frank and his wife, Patti, equally distraught, confirmed the death of their son - Army soldier Zachary Grass.

Grass, who turned 22 on May 22, was killed in Iraq on Saturday morning, said Frank Grass. He said his son was in a vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb.

"We had gone to a car show (Saturday)," Grass said, his voice low and trembling. "When we returned home, that's when the military was here."

Grass family members gathered Sunday to console one other on the front porch of their ranch home just north of Beach City. An older brother, Ben Grass, 26, who had served in the Air Force, also was at the home.

"Maybe in a day or two," Frank Grass said, he would be able to talk.

Zachary Grass was a 2003 graduate of Fairless High School where he played basketball and baseball.

"He was a kid always willing to do whatever it took to help the team, a pretty selfless kid," said head boys basketball coach Matt Kramer.

Grass was a guard for the Falcons from his sophomore through senior years, Kramer said. Just "a shade under 6 feet," Grass did whatever he could to help the close-knit team win.

"He was a great personality," Kramer recalled. "Sometimes, younger kids have a hard time relating to their elder coaches, but Zach was personable. He always had a smile and a joke at the right time. He was a great kid to have in the locker room."

Kramer was grilling chicken Sunday with his 2-year-old playing nearby when he got word of Grass' death. The news made him reflect on the "huge loss" in a deeper way. Grass should be thought of as a hero, said Kramer, who explained that he wouldn't be enjoying a worry-free Father's Day if it weren't for people such as Grass.

"You study wars in books and you don't get the personal side because fatalities become statistics. But it hits home that these are real people when somebody calls you on a Sunday afternoon and tells you one of your former players died in Iraq."

Fairless social-studies teacher and former baseball coach David Fogle said he knew Grass since he was a freshman. Grass was a pitcher and he played third base.

The young soldier was on leave earlier this year and went to the school to check in with his former teachers and coaches.

"Zach was a good kid," Fogle said. "He stopped in the classroom this year (to visit). I said, 'Good luck and stay safe.' I was very proud to hear he went into the service."

That's the last contact Fogle and Kramer had with Grass.

Kramer said Grass played basketball during a time the team was rated 12th in the state in the Division III Associated Press poll and finished second in the PAC-7.

"As a senior, he was a major contributor," Kramer said. "It was a team that won 15 games ... a talented class of kids he played with."

And Grass was concerned about how this year's team was looking. He asked about the players on his visit home before the season started.

"It's always nice when current players see former players," said Kramer.

During the visit, Grass told his former coach he was happy to be serving his country. "It's what Zach wanted to do," Kramer said.

"It looked to me like he was at peace with what he was doing. You have to have a ton of respect for anyone willing to lay their lives down for what the government believes is in the best interest of our country.

"Ultimately, that's what Zach did."

From the Canton Repository