Always be objective, do not become emotionally attached to the subjects you write about are two things they teach you in a journalism class at college.

The first should always be a goal, but there are times when you can't help but be a cheerleader for your teams. That was the opinion of former Times sports editor Bill Shelton.

He also told me that if you do enough stories on a person, or type their name in a roundup plenty of times, you can't help but become attached to them in some way, that they almost become part of the family.

It didn't take me long in this job to find out Bill was correct. I remember throwing objectivity out the window the day the Cold Springs girls defeated Geraldine to win Cullman County's first state basketball crown. I high-fived fellow Times sports writer Johnathan Bentley as the final seconds ticked down on the clock with the Eagles' victory already assured.

Rarely has a week gone by since I've returned that I haven't read an engagement announcement or a wedding announcement involving a former high school athlete I covered when I was sports editor.

I've rejoiced when athletes have excelled in college like Wesley Britt or Dee Merriweather (and took greater joy when they've received their college degrees). I've grieved when tragedy strikes as was the case with the death of Hanceville's Eli Thomas three years ago.

I felt the same way about Adam Fales' death this past Saturday.

When a caller asked if we had heard that a soldier from the county had been killed in Iraq, I first I thought she was asking about Staff Sergeant Travis Nelson, who had been killed the previous week.

It was almost like a punch in the stomach when she mentioned the name of the soldier she heard had died. It took me a few minutes after I hung up the phone to regain my composure.

I covered Adam's gridiron exploits, along with his brother Jacob, when I was sports editor. Adam was a 1,000-yard rusher who was also a standout on defense. Jacob is probably one of the most prolific tacklers in county history.

I called a couple of his coaches at Fairview, Marty Hardman and Phillip Gay, and they confirmed what the caller had said.

I've found out a lot more about Adam over the last few days that speaks volumes about his character more than he ever accomplished on the football field, and what he accomplished on the football field was quite a lot.

He loved his country. That's seems to be a common trait of the youth of this community, something we can take pride in. Shortly after the attack on 911, I remember doing a story on a couple of Good Hope football players who signed on with the National Guard before they were through with school.

The fact that he was willing to put his life on the line for our country makes him a true patriot and a hero in my book.

Adam also loved his family. He enjoyed spending time with his parents and with his brothers. He also loved his community — Fairview — a place he embraced since moving here a few years ago from Ocala, Fla.

It is a person like Adam who reminds me that it is sometimes hard to be objective, there are times when you do take things personally. Bill once told me that if you stay here long enough, you come to care a great deal about the people you cover.

I'm not alone. I've found that to be the case with several members members of our staff. I believe that is a good thing.

I've sometimes joked with sports editor Joshua Buckley and Matt Perdue that they've been too big of "homers" for the teams in our coverage area. The events of the last few days have come to remind me that I was a lot like them when I was in their shoes.

As sports editor here, I typed in hundreds of names in game stories, features and roundups. Even when I misspelled a name or two (I misspelled Jacob Fales' name once or twice in his career), they were never just names to me.

Adam Fales reminded me of how personal those names have become.

• Turner is the managing editor of The Cullman Times. His column appears on Thursdays.

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