Hey, wasn’t there a WAR going on or something?




As they love to say, “The ‘SURGE’ worked.” That is, the combination of sending a larger though untenable number of our troops to Iraq, utilizing them more intelligently than Rumsfeld did, and paying off Sunni leaders to go after Al Qaeda and hold their fire against us and the Shiites for the time being, succeeded in its goal of reducing US casualties to a level where the occupation of Iraq is no longer on our front pages and it’s easy to forget we’ve still got 135,000 troops over there (still being killed and maimed but by the dozens rather than hundreds) and are squandering borrowed billions at this rate:

Most of us realize by now (and millions of Iraqi shoes agree) that this “war” was unnecessary, unjust and illegal, and we hope that our new President, who was right about it from the beginning, will stand by his promise to get our troops out as quickly as possible.  But we’ll need to keep the pressure on him, as you know what happens when politicians get to Washington and are surrounded by all the same voices and pressures that got us into trouble in the first place.  NONE of our people should be dying over there in this stoopid occupation; 302 Americans so far this year is 302 too many. Over the flip, let’s meet some boys and girls from the Southland who met their demise in 2008 in Bush’s war:

Twenty-year-old Pfc. Brandon A. Meyer of Orange; killed with four other young men this past January when his unit encountered a roadside bomb during convoy operations in Mosul.  Brandon grew up in Canyon, Texas, where he graduated from Canyon High School in 2005; he was survived by a wife, Catlin, in Orange; you can see the reminiscences of his family and friends here.

Twenty-one-year-old Army Spc. Armando De La Paz of Riverside, died of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover in Baghdad on November 13. There was a good write-up on him in the Daily Kos: In the Army for three years, he had already been awarded a Purple Heart  and several other medals.  His high school teacher Scott Godwin pictured him being a college English professor; he enjoyed reading great literature on his own. In 16 years as a teacher, “I’ve never met anybody that concerned about how other people might feel,” Godwin said. “He was just the most gentle, intelligent kid.”

Twenty-three-year-old Sgt. Cody R. Legg of Escondido, was shot June 4 while trying to save two soldiers who had been attacked by insurgents with grenades and small-arms fire in Sharqat. All three servicemen died.  He was the all-American kid next door, said Pam Cowley, who grew up on the same block with Legg. “He had tons of friends. Everybody liked him,” Cowley said. More here…

Twenty-year-old Spc. Mary J. Jaenichen of Temecula, died May 9 in Iskandariya of what they’re calling a “non-combat related injury.”   The LA Times reported that she was serving as a military police officer at a “detainee holding area” — a prison.  Her father said it was hard for her: “The detainees were young kids — 17, 16 — and they’d be there crying. She told me, ‘I’d like to comfort them, but knowing why they’re there, I couldn’t do it.’ ”  At his daughter’s request, he sent her coloring books and stuffed animals to distribute to children. While in Iraq, one comfort was a stuffed doll from home — a 2-foot-tall Elmo, the lovable Sesame Street figure with the red fur and goofy smile.  “She said she was always saving Elmo from the rest of the squad,” her father said. “The guys in her unit would pin him to the dart board. They would hide him. Once they taped him to the front of her Humvee. They would pick on Elmo just to pick on her. . . . But mostly it was in fun.”

Forty-year-old Petty Officer 1st Class Cherie L. Morton of Bakersfield was found dead in April at her off-base Bahrain apartment, where she served as a career counselor for the Naval Security Force stationed there. The cause of death is still under investigation.  The Times quotes her friend and colleague Millie Slamin, the public affairs officer at the base, that Morton’s outgoing personality served her well in her job, where she helped hundreds of enlisted naval officers with career goals and guidance.

Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo of San Marcos (down there between Oceanside and Escondido,) one of three soldiers killed during combat operations in Samarra on January 8.  He was supposed to serve as the best man at the wedding of his best friend and brother in combat, Pfc. Phillip J. Pannier, 20, who died in the same attack. SignsonSanDiego reported: Merlo and Pannier “would do anything for each other. I will never forget those two boys together,” Jennifer Marie Held, Pannier’s fiancee, said yesterday in an e-mail from her home in Metamora, Ill. “I intend on keeping contact with Nicole for the rest of my life because we need each other.”The Merlos were present at the dinner when Pannier proposed to Held. The two couples spent time together on many occasions. “Ivan was a great, great person and always helped me through everything,” Held said. At the Merlo family home in San Marcos, Diego Merlo said he’ll miss his older brother’s magnetic personality. He also expressed admiration for the way his brother aspired to achieve greater things in life.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.