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Looking back on Iraq War

War on Terror has claimed lives of 4 Ennis servicemen
In San Francisco yesterday, the fifth anniversary of America’s invasion of Iraq, anti-war activists protested, in Washington, D.C., Pres. Bush defended the War on Terror, and in Ennis, where four local servicemen have been lost in the conflict, family and friends remembered the ultimate sacrifice paid by Army Specialist Aaron Latimer, Navy Medic Kyle Nolen, Army Sergeant Chadrick Domino and Navy Technician Timothy Gauna.
Three of these local heroes –– Latimer, Nolen and Domino –– died serving their country in Iraq within the span of a year (May 2006-May 2007), while Gauna was the first Ennis victim of Al Qaeda terrorists, lost in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.
The fact that a small town like Ennis has suffered such a toll has drawn national media attention, from articles in the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times to broadcast coverage by Fox and CNN.
The loss of life has shocked the city yet locals also give thanks for the safe return of many area military men and women: like Benjamin Kyser, home after two tours of Iraq, Jonathon Goza, back in Ennis after a 16 month deployment and Jessica McBride, recently in town on leave but now shipped out again to fight for America in a battle that’s lasted longer than World War II and is the most controversial military invasion since Vietnam.
Last Dec. 21 marked a year since U.S. Navy Corpsman Kyle Nolen lost his life in a land mine assault in Iraq’s Anbar province. His wife holds his memory close.
“So much has changed but so much has stayed the same,” said Cassi Nolen, mother of Kyle’s son Ryan, now 4, and Railey, 17 months. “Trips to the cemetery are a daily occurrence. But it still doesn’t seem real. It is like we are waiting for the truth to come out.”
One truth is certain to the widow the serviceman left behind. He was a hero.
“The pain hasn’t gotten any better,” Cassi said. “I think we are just learning to live with it. We are so lucky to have known and loved a true American hero.”
Kyle’s dedication to his country is the legacy she hopes to impart to their young children.
“These babies will know that freedom isn’t free and their daddy paid the ultimate price,” Cassi said.
The loved ones of Ennis’ other recent war casualties said their memories can’t be erased either, nor can their pride in the devotion to America these men displayed.
Gauna’s uncle, James Guana, said his nephew joined the military to “better himself” and takes pride in the sacrifice he made for his country aboard the U.S.S. Cole. Gauna was one of three North Texans among a total of 17 servicemen killed in the terrorist strike on the carrier in the port of Aden.
A classroom at Illinois’ Great Lakes Naval Training Center has been named in Gauna’s honor.
Latimer’s parents also supported their son’s military career and while not yet reconciled to his death, finally ruled as self-inflicted in an Army probe six months ago, they said they’re proud of his service to the nation. In 2006 the family admitted to the Ennis Daily News they knew of the depression that preceded Latimer’s death in a bunker on the Mosul, Iraq base where he was stationed but they chose not to speak of other details since revealed by Army Public Affairs, such as his being placed on temporary suicide watch by his unit.
The family does not feel, nor do the soldiers with whom he served, that Latimer’s problems detract from his heroism
“His empathy was extraordinary,” his father Richard Latimer said. “He really wanted to help.”
The young man’s dedication to duty didn’t go unnoticed by Army leaders.
“I will always remember Aaron for what he was – a man who cared deeply and enduringly for his fellow soldiers,” said his commander Jeff Muir.
Domino’s sister, Ursula Domino, said her brother was devoted to his life in the service of his country and, while there was initial opposition from their mother to his enlisting in the Army, the family was eventually fully supportive of his dream to make a career in the military.
His dream was realized. With a dozen medals and commendations and two tours in Iraq under his belt, he was five years into his time with the Stryker Brigade Combat Team when small arms enemy fire killed him while on dismantled patrol in Baghdad.
Of Domino’s loss, his sister was philosophical: “God makes no mistakes.”
Yet she feels her brother’s death could have been avoided. Like Miriam Latimer, sister of Aaron, Ursula Domino isn’t supportive of the military’s initiative of sending tenured troops up for leave or retirement back into harm’s way.
“They should not have been sent back,” Ursula said. “Other troops should have been deployed. Had my brother not gone back, he would be alive today.”
Ennis’ returned troops are happy to be with their families again but they said they don’t want the spotlight turned on them.
“Everyone’s support during this time has been a true answer to prayer,” Goza said, thanking the community for its concern for he and his wife Tracy before his homecoming in May last year. Despite his successful tour of Iraq as tank commander and civil affairs officer, the West Point graduate who became a decorated captain said he doesn’t want to be called a hero.
“We would like to remind everyone of the American heroes who have given their lives,” Goza said. “We owe so much to each of them for their sacrifice. They are the real American heroes, and we must never forget them.”
Ennis has no plans to forget their fallen heroes in the Iraq war. Three of them are buried in Ennis’ Myrtle Cemetery, their graves never missing flowers or notes from relatives, friends and others wishing to pay respects. Gauna is at rest in the northwest corner of the property while Latimer and Nolen are interred within feet of one another in the historic southern section. Domino is buried in his native Longview.

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Posted by on Mar 20 2008. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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