'He saved many; now he's home': The vet who could help everybody couldn't help self

By Sharon Cohen

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 16 2013 11:00 p.m. MDT

There was a hitch, though. He was approaching a two-year deadline to get a state license required by the VA.

McNabb urged him to take the test. For some reason, he didn't. The VA let him go.

"He felt betrayed," his widow says. "He deteriorated after that and he deteriorated quickly."

At the end of last summer, Linnerooth returned home to Minnesota so he could see his children daily. He traveled back to California, though, for a joyous occasion — the birth of his son, David.

He spoke often with his buddy McNabb and seemed optimistic, considering careers outside psychology.

Linnerooth was busy with family during the holidays: He traveled west to see his baby and sent photos to his sister, Mary. On Jan. 1, he spent a happy day with his son, Jack.

The next day, though, McNabb says, a fight with his wife, alcohol and a loaded gun proved a tragic combination.

"For the record, Pete Linnerooth did not want to die," McNabb says. "He just wanted the pain to end. Big difference."

For all those who loved and admired him, for all those who saw him at his best and worst, these past weeks have been filled with sorrow, regret and inescapable irony.

"He didn't like to burden other people," his widow says. "I don't know anyone who knew how to comfort people like he did. ... It's such a tragedy. He had the skill, he genuinely cared and he could have helped so many people. And now he's gone."

His family and friends gathered on a bitter cold January day in Minnesota to bid farewell.

The night before, his Army pals toasted their buddy and placed his urn on the table, covering it with a Motorhead T-shirt.

Later in his hotel near Fort Snelling National Cemetery, McNabb wondered how to honor his friend's legacy. He was limited to 30 characters on Pete's headstone. How do you capture a life in a few words?

McNabb then remembered something Linnerooth once said: "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.

After lunch, 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 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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