Wednesday, April 30, 2003

In Memoriam

Now that the war in Iraq is over, it is important to remember some of those who played a part in it. History will record the battles and the command decisions of the Great, but individuals will recall it in increasingly uncertain memory; evidenced by souvenir, a lively story or a uniform kept beyond it's season.

Joseph Menusa was born in the Philippines and moved with his mother to San Jose when he was 10. He graduated from Silver Creek High in 1989, then joined the Marines. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, with responsibilities that included demolition and construction.

He deployed to Iraq during the first Gulf War, where, despite a desire to see action,  his biggest scare came from a camel rustling near his tent at night, a story he repeated with gusto and for which he was permanently ragged. A man who had professed arms all his adult life, he left  a job as a military recruiter in January, 2003 to return to combat and lay the camel's ghost.

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
``To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?

Sgt. Menusa was killed in action on March 27, 2003 in Central Iraq.  His body was sent to the rear in a supply truck from the 6th Motor Transport Battalion, whose sole driver, Lance Cpl. Ryan Yung, was determined to provide such dignity as he could, under the circumstances. He swept the sand and mud away from the cadaver bag with his hands, and as if it were the most important thing in the world, searched for a set of clean tie-downs to fasten it to floor. "They were almost new, like they'd barely been used," Yung said.

Corporal Yung had brought an American flag, which he planned to have autographed as a keepsake, but instead served to cover Menusa's bodybag, with some tape to hold it in place. And in that condition, the lonely cortege with it's mournful cargo and single driver made it's way back to the first of many stops before the funeral at the St Louis De Monfort Catholic Church, in Santa Maria, California. Among the memorial speakers was his brother, Marine Gunnery Sgt David Menusa, who said:

"One thing I regret is that night he took off, I never told him I loved him. He told me, 'I'll be back, don't worry bro, I'll be back. It'll be over in three months,'" David Menusa said. "He came back, I had to meet him in a box."

The remainder of the program called for color guard military honors, a  21-gun-salute and the playing of taps. Then, in the strangest twist in this most typical of war stories, a presentation of a certificate of United States Citizenship was made to Sgt. Menusa by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. For although he had been a Marine for 14 years, Menusa had never been able to attend the requisite interviews required to complete his citizenship applications. And there, at his coffin, it was bestowed by a grateful country.

He is survived by his wife Stacy and son Joshua, who he will never see again in this life. He held up the world for them.

When the oldest cask is opened,
And the largest lamp is lit;
When the chestnuts glow in the embers,
And the kid turns on the spit;
When young and old in circle
Around the firebrands close;
When the girls are weaving baskets,
And the lads are shaping bows;

When the goodman mends his armor,
And trims his helmet's plume;
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom;
With weeping and with laughter
Still is the story told,
How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.