Sunday, September 26, 2004
Today's must-read article: A colleague of mine, Union-Tribune photographer Earnie Grafton wrote an essay for today's paper remembering Marine PFC Nachez Washalanta II.
Grafton was embedded with the Marines as they invaded Iraq last year, and Washalanta was the driver of the light armored vehicle in which Grafton rode. Washalanta died last month when the Humvee he was in was hit by a roadside mine.
He was a short kid. So short I remember thinking he must have just squeaked by the Marine minimum-height requirement. I think he was barely 20 years old at the time. Too young to drink, but old enough to drive an armored vehicle into war.
He came from Ardmore, Okla., some small town where opportunity doesn't exactly shoot up from the hard-packed red earth. I remember that he hadn't had an easy life. He told me he had "screwed up" a few times back in Oklahoma. He was a tough guy who didn't talk much. He either said what he thought, which usually wasn't the right thing to say to your boss, or he simply clammed up.
You could tell he never fit in anywhere before ... until he joined the Marines.
Read the whole thing and say a prayer for Washalanta and his family.