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Gardens of Stone

Will you lay me down, in a garden of stone;
When your needs are great, will you lead me home?

Should my load grow hard, will you help me then;
In my darkest hour, as will stand and defend?

When I am sent away, to a foreign land;
Marching a thousand miles, through the burning sand;
And wipe the blood from my face, with your trembling hand;
...if I give myself for you?

Will you write my name, in the Book of Life;
When my time draws near, in my toils and strife?
Will you remember me then, when I’m dead and gone;
And my life is done, will you still remember me?

When I am sent away, to a foreign land;
Marching a thousand miles, through the burning sand;
And wipe your tears away, with my dying hand;
...if I give myself for you?

Would you lay me down, in a garden of stone;
...will you still remember me?

by marcus dismas, 2008 somber memory of my buddy, Ross McGinnis, and all of the other friends & comrades; brothers & sisters, that never made it back.  Good fight, soldier, good fight.

     Tonight we say good-bye to five courageous and exceptional soldiers who have given their lives for our country. One of the five remembered here, although it’s hard to say which, is believed by some sources to be the 4,000th American service person whose life was claimed by the Iraq War. Then again, that grim figure is in dispute, since the recordkeeping by the Department of Defense is selective. It does not, for example, include suicides among military personnel, in or out of service, and there is some disagreement about whether or not those who die after returning home for medical treatment are included in the total. This is not the place to sort out these issues; I mention them only because the mainstream media has recognized the number 4,000 as a landmark of sorts.
    For many of us, these numbers tell only an infinitesimal part of the story about these losses. Why should death number 4,000 be any more significant or garner more attention than any other number? After writing more than one dozen IGTNT tributes – and reading many more – it is clear (to me at least) that every single one of these 4,000+ individuals was a hero.
    Although the men and women remembered in the IGTNT diaries came from all over the country and its territories, as well as other nations, and may appear very different on the surface, they all had a great deal in common. They were all someone’s child. They were fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives and lovers. They were students, athletes, neighbors, friends, members of churches and communities. Their families and friends describe them as dedicated, patriotic, selfless, intelligent, funny, a joy to be around, supportive, good-hearted, generous – the list of their fine qualities and achievements could go on and on. And now they are gone. And as my dear friend, marcus dismas, currently in the U.S. Army, who served two tours in Iraq and is now in Germany, wrote in his incredible poem, all they ask is that we remember them, and that is such a small thing to do in return for their sacrifices.  
    Actually, it would be hard not to remember them. Among those we honor tonight is a young man who emigrated here from Mexico with his family and was determined to repay the debt of gratitude he felt he owed his adopted country – even though he was not yet a citizen. One was newly married; another had recently become a father. All were loved and cherished by so many.  


DoD Identifies Army Casualties

           The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died March 24 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive on March 23. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

           Killed were:

           Pvt. George Delgado, 21, of Palmdale, Calif.

           Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Hake, 26, of Enid, Okla.

           Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, of Festus, Mo.

           Spc. Jose A. Rubio Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas.

Private George Delgado: A delight to be around

Just four years ago, George Delgado was preparing to graduate from Desert Christian High School, in Southern California’s Antelope Valley, just north of Los Angeles. At a prayer service this week, students, teachers and other staff members remembered the 21-year-old as someone with "an infectious, unique sense of humor."


"He was a pretty quiet young man that just had a great zest for life," said Devin Thomas, Desert Christian dean of students. "Once you got to know him, he was a funny young man, a delight to be around."
    The two had formed a friendship and Delgado visited after his graduation with thoughts of becoming a teacher, Thomas said. "Sometimes you get kids in and you kind of develop a bond," Thomas said. "When we got the news today, it floored us."


    Although teaching appealed to Delgado, who had attended Antelope Valley Community College, he also was considering a career in law enforcement, according to his long-time friend, Nolan Browning. In May, 2007, he decided to enlist in the military while he sorted out his future. By September, he had been assigned to Fort Stewart in Georgia.


"One of the reasons he went into the military was he was searching for what he wanted to do," he [Browning] said.
Browning last saw Delgado when he returned from Iraq on leave in December. Browning recalled the soldier was more confident, more disciplined than the young man he went to high school and later college with.
     "He kind of found direction and purpose with the Army," Browning said.


Although Army life agreed with him, Delgado was well aware of the risks involved in his work and even went so far as to tell Browning he knew he might not return from Iraq.  


"He said he knew the danger he faced as a soldier. He worried about it a little bit. But he knew what was expected of him."
Delgado told friends his biggest concern wasn't himself, but his family.
    "That's what he worried about most," said Browning, 22. "That was a huge part of him, his family. He was more worried about his mom" than himself.  


    As family and friends learned of Delgado’s death, tributes poured into his pages at MySpace and Facebook.


"I'm at a loss of words. Our memories will live with me forever. Rest in Peace my dear friend," wrote Alysse Pernula, who attended high school with Delgado.
    Reached by telephone, Pernula described Delgado as "full of life."
    "He was very adventurous, outgoing and fun loving," she said.


Staff Sergeant Christopher M. Hake: I’ve never seen someone love their job so much
Growing up in the small, close-knit community of Enid, Oklahoma, Chris Hake (above, with wife Kelli and son Gage) was a known as a quiet, but fun-loving kid who enjoyed playing basketball and baseball.


Mark Shuck, the principal at Oklahoma Bible Academy, said the news of Hake's death hit hard at the small Christian school in Enid.
    "It was definitely a shock today to hear it," Shuck said. "It obviously is a face to a war that some people haven't had a face to put with it."
    "He was quietly compassionate. He generally cared for people," Shuck said. "I don't know that he was ever out to draw attention to himself."


    "He was a guy that was always a peacekeeper, always wanted to make sure everybody was happy," Hake's stepmom, Jill, told the Daily News.

    In 2000 he graduated from Oklahoma Bible Academy, and immediately enlisted in the Army. One of Chris’s first assignments was as an escort during funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. He also marched in President Bush's 2001 inauguration parade. Later, as a member Washington’s the Old Guard, he saved lives by helping people escape from the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks.
    But eventually, Chris transferred to Fort Stewart’s 3rd Infantry Division so he could join other soldiers serving in Iraq. His first deployment was in 2005. Last year, he began his second tour there, serving as a squad leader for a group of about eight soldiers.
    Peter Hake says that his son and his men developed such strong bonds that they were willing to do anything for one another.

"He knew that they would die for him and he would do the same also," Peter Hake said. "Sometimes I wondered if the Army was before his wife. I would say no, but it ran a close second."
    Chris and his wife, Kelli, were married for almost three years. The couple had a one-year old son, Gage. His love for  his family made it difficult for Chris when it came time to decide on signing up for a second tour.
    "It literally tore his heart out to walk out on that boy," Peter Hake said. "It made him wish he could be done with the war."
    "I've just never seen someone love their job so much," said Hake's father, Peter Hake. "He was really proud of his accomplishments."



Although he was disappointed by his first tour in Iraq, Chris’s attitude changed before his second deployment, and he felt that he would be able to help the Iraqis.  
    "I'm actually excited about being here and the great things I'll be able to do for the people of this country," Hake, a married father of an 18-month-old boy, e-mailed his family last November.
    "If anything were to happen to me, Gage would always be able to know that his father died so that he could live in peace."



"It meant a lot to him to be there," Hake's father, Peter Hake, said. "He knew the risks. He knew when he went in, but also he knew we were there for the right reason."

    Chris Hake is the 65th Oklahoma native to die in Iraq. He will be buried April 8 in Arlington National Cemetery.

Private First Class Andrew J. Habsieger: He made everyone around him better
Growing up in the small town of Festus, Missouri, Andrew "Andy" Habsieger (shown above, in uniform) listened with fascination to his grandfather’s tales of serving in the military. Shortly after the attacks of  September 11, Andy tried to enlist in the Army. But the one-time star high school football player was turned down because he suffered from migraine headaches. But Andy refused to take no for an answer. Finally, in 2004, he started basic training.


"He was one of those kids that was always proud to make sacrifices," said Joel Critchlow, Habsieger's football coach. "When he bought into something, he went 110%. There was no halfway with Andy."
    "He was a big-hearted kid and made everyone around him better," said Joel Critchlow, Habsieger's former football coach. "He led through example."


In spite of the ordeal of serving in a war zone, Andy kept his sense of humor in tact. At his MySpace page, he says:

    "I am from a small town in Missouri called Festus. Right now I am visiting the beautiful country of Iraq."

According to his mother, Brenda Habsieger, Andy died just two weeks before he was supposed to return home.


Specialist Jose A. Rubio Hernandez: He wanted to be known for something and now he is

Jose "Joe" Rubio Hernandez was born in Reynosa, Mexico, but his family moved to the border town of Mission, Texas, when he was four. He grew up fascinated by computers and video games, and went on to study computer science at South Texas College. Those who knew him were impressed by Joe’s persistence and determination to learn. As his wife, Jennifer Guerra, told the AP:


"He was one of those who would figure it out himself," Guerra said. "He would stay there until he figured it out."


     Eventually, Joe became the first of the family’s nine siblings to earn a college degree. His plans for the future included continuing his education as well as becoming an American citizen. Joe had completed the citizenship paperwork – and would have been the first member of his family to become a citizen --  but did not get a chance to submit it before he died.
    The fact that he was not a citizen, however, did not prevent him from joining the Army. According to his brother, Edgar, Joe was determined to serve his adopted county.


Of his siblings, Rubio felt the strongest about giving back to his adopted country. His family had moved from Reynosa, Mexico when he was 4, but he realized what his life would have been like if they had stayed in Mexico, Edgar Rubio said.
    "My brother gave his life for this country," Edgar Rubio said. "He felt appreciation for this country."


    After completing basic training, Joe married his long-time girlfriend, Jennifer Guerra. Their son, Nikolai Cyrus Rubio, was born shortly before he was deployed to Iraq.
    In January, Joe came home on leave. His family found him strikingly different than when he had left.  Not only had Joe lost about thirty pounds, but he was quieter and much more serious. He slept and ate very little, confessed that he was frightened and seemed to have a premonition that he might never return home again.

When Rubio, 24, left for a second tour of duty recently, he told his wife and family he had a bad feeling. "He didn't know if he was going to make it out alive," Edgar, 32, said. "He told everyone, my mother, my nephew. We thought he was just a little down. We realize now that he was saying bye to everyone."


    Joe’s death has inspired his brother, Edgar, to make some of his brother’s dreams come true so that his nephew will have a good role model. Now 32, Edgar is returning to college to earn a degree and is also working on gaining citizenship.

"My brother gave his life for this country," Edgar Rubio said. "He felt appreciation for this country."



DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

            The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

           Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Canham, 21, of Lake Stevens, Wash., died March 23 from a non-hostile incident in Djibouti. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Portland, Ore.

           The incident is under investigation.

Lance Corporal Dustin L. Canham: He had such a good heart
Dustin Canham (pictured above with his wife of five months, Devyn) started making a name for himself while he was attending Lake Steven High School in Washington State. Before graduating in 2004, he became known as a key member of the school’s HiQ academic quiz team, and took on the task of creating a different team-spirit T-shirt design each week.


Lake Stevens High School Principal Ken Collins, who coached football at the time, still keeps some of Dustin's shirts at his home and smiles at the thought of the colorful images.

    "I think I had to tell him at least once he'd need to tone it down," Collins said with a laugh Wednesday.


    Eventually, Dustin discovered the sport of paintball, at ForestFire Paintball in Lake Stevens, and went on to lead teams to national paintball championships. In fact, Dustin was a captain of a ForestFire team that competed nationally.
    In spite of his competitive spirit and love of the game, Dustin was known for his generosity to other teammates.


If someone's cheap paintball gun jammed during a game, Dustin was known to pass the kid his $300 gun and say, "Go have fun!" said Bruce Rasmussen, who was on Dustin's champion paintball team.
"He was such an honest kid, and he had such a good heart," [friend Ezra] Frenzel said, describing Canham as caring, outgoing and positive.
"It was extremely rare that you'd see him down or discouraged," Frenzel said.



Dustin’s older brother, Mitch Canham, 23, was a star on the Lake Steven High School baseball team. He grew up shagging baseballs for his brother for hours at a time, said his father, Mark Canham.

    "He hated baseball, but he'd do it every day without question, for 10 years," Mark Canham said.

    After playing for Oregon State University, Mitch was drafted this year to the San Diego Padres.Dustin saw his brother's success as a family victory.

    "Mitch, Dust and I raised each other," Mark Canham said. "When times were hard and their mother was gone, that's what we did." (Dustin and Mitch’s mother died in 2003.)


    In 2004, Dustin joined the Marine Reserves, as a way of financing his own higher education and to express his patriotism. He was assigned to a reserve Marine unit, the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, based in Portland, Oregon. In December, his unit was deployed to Africa earlier this month, in support of the war in Afghanistan. Dustin served as a bulk fuel specialist, and his unit provided security for other troops. Those who knew Dustin said being in the Marines seemed to agree with him.
    After arriving in Africa, Dustin reported his first impressions earlier this month at the ForestFire's website:

"Anyone ever been to Djibouti?" he wrote. "I've only been here for three days. It's hot. Very, very hot. And its only spring. But the food is AMAZING and I spent a good 30 minutes interacting with some civilians. A large family with lots of hyper kids. Kinda felt good to see kids playin' and havin' fun."

    But according to his wife, Devyn, America was his first love.

"He was so cheesy about it," said his wife, Devyn Canham. "If he went to Subway, he would always get American cheese. If we went somewhere that had 'American' apple pie, he would order that. He loved being an American."

    The couple met each other about year ago, and had been married for about five months.

"He was so mature and made me a better person," she said Wednesday. "I just really wanted to be someone he loved."



    You can view the stories and remembrances of these heroes at sites such as Iraq Veterans Memorial and Honor the Fallen.

    Regarding Iraq, the Department of Defense has confirmed 4,005 deaths, with an additional two to be announced, pending notification of next of kin, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

Supporting the Troops
If you haven’t put together a care package for a unit in Iraq or Afghanistan, consider making one. It’s a great feeling to know you are sending our troops things they really need -- necessities like socks, underwear, soup packets, feminine hygiene products, paper and pens, school supplies, treats and trinkets they can pass out to the Iraqi and Afghan children. They are thrilled to receive basic things like these, as well as letters from home.

There are a few ways to do this. One is to go to At the anysolider site, click on WhereToSend for a searchable database. For example, if you search "By Latest Email" you’ll see the troops who have most recently submitted a request for specific items. You then request their mailing address. Read Ninepatch’s wonderful diaries on the how-tos of it all – it couldn’t be any easier, thanks to her.
Operation Helmet is another great organization whose mission is to provide helmet upgrades.
Finally, if you would like to assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here. Animal companions can provide such joy and comfort.

Supporting Our Veterans

We have a solemn duty to ensure that our veterans are properly cared for. Consider visiting sites such as, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America,  Welcome Back Veterans.organd Fisher Houseto see where your help is needed. Other ways to help can be found in this diary.

About the IGTNT series:
IGTNT stands for "I Got the News Today."  The phrase is meant to symbolize that terrible knock on the door that any number of families got today, bringing with it the news that a loved one has died. IGTNT is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remind.
    Click here to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, noweasels, MsWings, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, greenies, labwitchy, joyful, roses, SisTwo, SpamNunn and me, moneysmith.

These diaries are heartbreaking to write, but an important service to those Americans who have died and to our community’s respect for and remembrance of them. If you would like to volunteer, even once a month, please contact Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, or noweasels.

Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.

Originally posted to moneysmith on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 05:37 PM PDT.

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