Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Filipino-American Soldiers In Iraq


LAST week (Jan. 2, 2006), coming from Honolulu, my Continental flight pilot announced a few minutes before arriving in Guam that our plane would be doused with water (through a water cannon gun salute) upon touchdown by Guam firefighters in honor of a fallen American soldier who died in Iraq and whose remains formed part of the plane’s cargo. For a moment, I noticed many passengers offering prayers for the hero in our midst.

The battle for peace and freedom in Iraq continues to take more and more live each day. Late night of Saturday (Jan. 7, 2006), an Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq (between the cities of Tal Afar and Mosul where the aircraft lents aerial support for the troops from Task Force Band of Brothers), claiming the lives of 12 Americans. The failure was attributed to adverse weather in the area, but authorities were not ruling out the possibility of enemy involvement in the accident. The following day, Sunday (Jan. 8, 2006), five American Marines from the Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, were killed in operations against Iraqi insurgents. Estimated to cause the United States around trillion (according to Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbian University professor, former World Bank chief economist, and Nobel Prize winner for economics in 2001, and Linda Bilmes, a Harvard budget expert who jointly wrote a paper on the real cost incurred by the war on Iraq), this current struggle had not only left properties and structures destroyed but likewise bereaved friends, parents, wives, and children of those tasked to defend the great cause in Iraq.

Since this war began in March, 2003, there have been 2,403 coalition deaths — 2,204 Americans, 1 Australian, 98 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, 2 Danes, 2 Dutch, 2 Estonians, 1 Hungarian, 26 Italians, 1 Kazakh, 1 Latvian, 17 Poles, 1 Salvadoran, 3 Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, 2 Thai, and 18 Ukrainians (data as of Jan. 9, 2006). Based on records of monthly American military fatalities since March, 2003, November, 2004, yielded the biggest number of deaths listed at 141, five months after Iraq was handed over on June 29, 2004. It is believed that as many as 48,100 have been wounded in the war, but official records of US troops wounded in action have only been listed at 16,329 according to reports from the Pentagon. As hostilities continue, it is expected that more and more names will be added to this casualty list.

Closer to us, recent death tolls in Iraq recorded two Filipino-American soldiers who died in two separate attacks, namely: (1) Army Sergeant Myla L. Maravillosa who died last December 24, 2005 and (2) Army Specialist Peter J. Navarro who died last December 13, 2005. Sgt. Maravillosa, 24, died of "injuries sustained when Iraqi rebels fired rocketpropelled grenades at the Humvee she was driving in Al Hawija." She became the first female Fil-Am casualty since March, 2003. Maravillosa who hails from Mahaiwa, Hawaii (who migrated to the island in 1997 with her family) was assigned at the Army Reserve’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion in 1999 after graduating from high school. Her remains were brought back to the Philippines in Uog, Inabangan, Bohol, where she will be given her formal funeral rites.

Spc. Navarro, on the other hand, according to the Filipino Reporter – Dec. 30-Jan. 5, 2006 edition, was "among the four soldiers killed in an attack in Taji, Iraq, about 12 miles northwest of Baghdad, and which has been the site of frequent attacks against US forces. He and a group of soldiers were conducting combat operations when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee." Navarro was a member of the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and had been assigned in Iraq since January, 2005. For his valor and heroism, having died in the line of duty, the 23-year-old soldier was awarded three medals: the Good Conduct Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star.

We the living should always salute the men and women who have offered their lives for the battle for freedom and democracy in Iraq. The courage and heroism they have displayed will always shine in the hearts of people espousing freedom in whatever chapter of human history. Having died in the pursuit of a noble mission for the greater good of humanity, we recall for these heroes the Biblical teaching from John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends," and the words of the great English playwright and poet William Shakespeare:

Set honour in one eye and death in the other
And I will look on both indifferently

For let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honour more than I fear death

The honor they have brought themselves and their families will always be remembered as the greatest contribution of man or a woman can offer to the cause for world freedom and peace. We the living are encouraged to contribute our own share.

1 comment:

Rizalist said...

A purple flower grows in Babylon.
It is watered by our blood too.
Not even Gloria can run away from that.