Troops Shared Firm Belief in Iraq Service
Friday, February 9, 2007
One was a Navy medic, the other a Marine sergeant. Both begged to go back to Iraq for another tour of duty. A third followed her brother into the Marine Corps and, eventually, into the war.
All three died this week as stepped-up security operations intensified fighting.
Seaman Manuel Ruiz, 21, from Maryland's Eastern Shore was among seven people killed when a Marine transport helicopter crashed in Anbar province Wednesday, his family said.
Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier, 24, from Virginia's Spotsylvania County was killed by a sniper Monday as he stood on a rooftop in Ramadi, the Pentagon and his family said yesterday.
And Marine Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, 20, of Bel Air, Md., died Wednesday in Anbar province in what the Defense Department described as "supporting combat operations."
In Ruiz's hometown of Federalsburg, a farm community of 2,600, friends and neighbors tied red, white and blue ribbons to lampposts yesterday, and officials made plans to lower flags in his honor. But the gestures seemed inadequate.
"Our hearts are broken," said Connie Blanchard, who works in the town hall accounting office. "He was a very brave and courageous guy."
Ruiz, whose mother, Lisa, also served in the Navy, was 14 days into his second tour in Iraq when he died, said Adam Lusk, a family friend who fought back tears as he described Ruiz's dedication to his job, helping to save lives. "He pretty much demanded to go back."
In a small town where young people often seek the military life as a way to broaden their horizons, Ruiz also stood out as a talented and sensitive artist, said Marjorie Scott, who was Ruiz's art teacher during his four years at Colonel Richardson High School. When he was back from his first tour, Ruiz visited the school in his Navy uniform.
"Any time he talked about the military, his eyes glistened," she said. She said she had worried about him, but he assured her that he was fulfilling his calling. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"He was well-trained, and he loved what he was doing," Scott said.
Likewise, Frazier believed so deeply in his mission in Iraq that he ignored pleas from his family and begged, pleaded and knocked on doors to get the Marines to send him back to Iraq. It was his third time in combat after previous tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.