Dalton First Responders: The Godly rest of the story

Zach KvalvogI have a weekly column, every Saturday on Agweek. It has been a weekly discipline for me to write. Last week in the midst of mourning and grieving the loss of the Kvalvog boys it was difficult for me to write anything that was tailored to the 4th of July and Independence Day.  After seeing the Dalton, Minnesota First Responders at the Kvalvog funeral I knew on the way home I had to honor them through my column. I put my words into a document, cried, edited, cried and by Thursday afternoon sent it to Agweek. Then I cried again.

I want to honor those who are rarely recognized, in happy or tragic times and selflessly serve our communities. Would my words be enough to reach them? I didn’t even read my column ahead of time to my husband, even after it was published, like I often do. I worried about walking a fine line of honoring the memory of the boys while recognizing the commendable work of emergency personnel.

By last night the column had been shared on Facebook by the Dalton, Minnesota fire chief, the exact people I wanted to reach. I would have never known if kind people from Dalton would not have written me to tell me what the words meant to them. Today the column was shared by our state’s largest newspaper, The Forum. More emails and Facebook messages came to me. 

This afternoon instead of cleaning up for my daughter’s birthday party, I downloaded pictures I knew would be on my camera from the last basketball games Zach Kvalvog played with our son, Hunter and their AAU basketball team, the Red River Heat.

I could stare at the pictures all day. I want back in that gym in Tea, South Dakota where I complained they didn’t have a working clock for the first game. I want Ray Kvalvog sitting next to me again, cheering fiercely for our boys. I want to go back and have everything “perfect” like it was on June 6-7, 2015 at our last tournament together. 

But I cannot go back. I cannot change what has happened.

Red River Heat AAU BasketballI cannot forget either. So while I could have cleaned this afternoon, I allowed myself to respond to messages I received about the column. I re-read these words from a wife of a Dalton First Responder:

“My husband spent hours picking up personal belongings that day and was taken aback when he came across a Bible. I’m not sure which of the boys it belonged to, but he said it was laying in almost perfect condition with its pages open to Micah 5. He said that was indeed a “God moment” for him. That evening he read through Micah as a means to provide him some closure. He was touched by the small miracle of that intact Bible in the midst of all the wreckage from the day. I believe it has also drawn him closer to our (children.)”

I wasn’t suppose to get all my household checklist done today. I needed to learn this Godly lesson. God spoke to me through the messages and taught me that tragedy can bring us closer to God if we allow it to. It gives you and me an opportunity to witness and share our faith. God called on me to do that today. 

The pastor at the funeral had shared the Bible in the wreckage story. But until I read it in the message today it hadn’t really hit me.

Micah 5:4 reads: He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lordin the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Shepherd your flock. Have strength in the Lord.

The words stick. 

Today I shared that Zach and Connor were Christians. They loved Jesus. We know they are in heaven. It gives us peace despite the unimaginable pain their parents are going through that the boys are playing basketball, singing, rejoicing and in perfect happiness with God.

We all have flocks to tend to, to share with, to root and grow in the Lord. That’s our job on earth. Ray and Kathie, parents of Zach and Connor did that and their children had mighty strength in the Lord. 

Zach KvalvogEvery message and email I received today was a gift to teach and guide me. Every photo I found was a surprise blessing, a memory I cannot go back to and relive again but one I can count as a blessing.

Zach KvalvogDaily as a child, I listened to Paul Harvey on AM radio with my dad. He always had a “rest of the story.” This is mine:

We have today. Shepherd your flock and have strength in the Lord. 

Thank you, God.


  1. Tara Lindquist says:

    My name is Tara and I an an EMT with Dalton Fire and Rescue and I was on the call that day and attended the funeral with my crew. I would like to thank you for your kind words about our department. You will never know how much it meant to all of us. Please get in touch with me, as our chief would like to talk to you.

    • Hi Tara, thank you. I sent you an email. This comment has made why I wrote this purposeful to know you have read it. We appreciate all you do. Thank you again.

  2. David Palugyay says:

    Ironically, Tara Lindquist, the first responder above, was just sentenced for stealing from one of these young man’s wallets at the scene of the accident spoken about in this article.

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