Wednesday, November 16, 2005

When you read a story about someone you might have known a long time ago ...

I go through a regular routine each morning, surfing various newspaper websites to see what's what in other cities (starting with the Washington Post and including the Houston Chronicle because I've got Dallas Morning News on my lap at the same time).
On the Chronicle website is a story about two Texas marines killed in an Iraqi offensive on Monday, somwhere near the western border, in one of those supposedly inspiringly named actions, "Operation Steel Curtain." As an aside, the Pentagon loves to use these colorful names and monikers to label military movements, but to me, it's just combat and battle all the same. I don't know why they do it, the bullets fly just the same. Is it to lessen the impact and make it more of a ... game?
One solider was from Liverpool, Texas and I Mapquested (yes, it is a verb) to see where it was (the answer: between Angleton and Alvin in Brazoria County, not much more than a blink-and-you'll-miss-it speck on a county road).
The other soldier - Cpl. John M. Longoria - was from the South Texas city of Nixon, 50 miles east of San Antonio and 30 miles from Seguin, Gonzales, Karnes City and Cuero. I don't need Mapquest to tell me where that city is. I lived there for 14 years. It's not much bigger, less than 2,000 people and might finally have gotten a traffic stoplight after years of asking.
The young man was only 21 years old, which meant he would have been 8 or 9 when I left. I probably saw him in an first or second grade class at Nixon Elementary during my tour as owner of the local newspaper. I might have shot his photo during a function and for sure, I probably ran his birth announcement, around 1984.
The family name (Longoria) is somewhat familiar to me; there were several with that last name in a town that was 65% Hispanic.
There is no newspaper in Nixon today that I know of. The closest one is 30 miles away and really doesn't serve that small poultry-processing community. The big daily in San Antonio hasn't posted the story on its website and in a community so dominanted by ITS military bases, this sad death might go unnoticed.
Except in Nixon. I'm sure the news has spread and the tears have already flowed. The local funeral home will probably be swamped; the small local Catholic church will see too many people wanting to attend the funeral.
My heart hangs heavy for this small community because this young man is the first (that I know of) person from Nixon to die in this current action. And in a small town, where you KNOW most of the people who live in it (as I did as the newspaperman), each loss hits much harder than in other places.
I have yet to see (or yet to be convinced) why such young men - productive citizens who could help this country grow in the future - have to die ... when I'm just not sure the people they are trying to help really, REALLY want us there. I set aside the politics and the lying (by both parties and all factions) and try to understand the sacrifice. I just don't think the loss of young American life is going to produce the final product that our leaders conceived.
These people are tribal in nature and have centuries' worth of patience. When our involvement ends, the Iraqi people, divided into Shi'a, Sunni and Kurd - will simply revert to old hatreds, as was the case in Yuogslavia between the Croats and Serbs.
Unless we stay there forever,which doesn't sound anymore enticing to me. Congratulations, Iraq is the new South Korea.
In this one case, however, it has produced heartbreaking grief in one small rural community in South Texas. In my mind, that is a very, very sad waste of humanity.

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