Local vets mourn loss of Marine | VailDaily.com

Local vets mourn loss of Marine

Special to the Daily


That, or something like it, was the reaction of every veteran, military mom or active duty officer who heard the news of Evenor Herrera, the 22-year-old Marine from Gypsum killed in combat Wednesday in Iraq.

“I worry every day,” said Jackie Ogden, a Vail code enforcement officer whose son, BJ, is with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

While Ogden worries, she knows her son is well-trained, as are the people around him. And, as a driver’s education teacher, she also knows there’s danger for a young man in this country, she says.

“I grew up in a military family,” Ogden said. “I don’t think it’s nearly as scary for me, knowing my dad could go anywhere anytime, or my ex-husband could go anywhere, any time. I’ve got a brother in the military, and he can’t tell us where he’s going next.”

With that uncertainty, though, other veterans said it’s important that the folks back home show their support.

“That’s the main thing,” said Vietnam veteran Pat Hammon. “It’s awful to be stuck in that environment and think the country’s not behind you.”

Hammon thinks support for the effort in Iraq is waning, and wishes that wasn’t so. “No matter your politics, it’s important to support the troops and the families,” she said.

Both Hammon and Ogden asked for the name and phone number of Herrera’s mother so they could do whatever they could.

While the death of one of the valley’s own has hit hard, an active duty officer said every military death is a blow.

“Every one of those kids and adults I see on the news hurts,” said Col. Joel Best, former commander of the High Altitude Aviation Training Site, the Colorado National Guard base at the Eagle County Airport.

“It’s hard for people to understand until it hits home like this, but when you see on the news that eight soldiers were killed, that’s eight husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters,” Best said.

“Every one of them is a son or daughter of America, and they’re doing a job. It’s something that’s very needed.”

“The death of every one affects you,” he added.

Roy Lawler flew B-52 bombers over North Vietnam. He also worked on the front lines as a spotter. One year, he lost four of the 16 people he worked with in that front line job.

“I know it hurts, but the family ought to be proud,” Lawler said. “He was serving our country, protecting us, and that’s honorable.”

Meanwhile, Ogden said she grieves for Herrera’s family ” and continues to worry about her own son.

“But BJ swears to me he’s safe,” she said. “He said he’s got 27 other soldiers in his outfit watching his back. I hold it in my heart that the Army is keeping them safe, that they’re not unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way.”

Staff writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ex. 613 or at smiller@vaildaily.com

Vail, Colorado

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