Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rudy Salcido remembered

His former commanding officer remembers Sgt. 1st Class Rudy Salcido as "a model soldier," a man he would trust in a desert firefight.

"Sgt. Salcido was someone I would go to war with," said Army National Guard Maj. Kenneth Koop. "And I don't say that lightly."

Salcido, a resident of Ontario, Calif., died Thursday in Baghdad, after a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy. The 31-year-old husband and father was a member of the Army National Guard's 1114th Transportation Company, which is based in Bakersfield.

Rudy was on his third tour of duty in Iraq, his father, Peter Salcido, said Monday from his home in Southern California. The younger Salcido shipped out in July, just three days after he was wed to his sweetheart, Jennifer.

"He wanted to be married. He wanted to have kids," his father said. "At the same time, he wanted to climb into a helicopter, he wanted to be there for his men. He was a soldier through and through."

The locally based transportation unit is used most often to move fuel, said Koop, who was the commanding officer who mobilized the unit. A family emergency kept him from accompanying the unit to Iraq.

"He was one of my squad leaders," Koop said of Sgt. Salcido. "He had gone to Iraq twice on active duty. This was his first time with the Guard."

The soldiers with the 1114th come from all over the state, Koop said. This deployment was trained at Camp Roberts near Paso Robles.

For Rudy Salcido, the thought of his comrades serving in Iraq without his experience and presence to guide them and protect them was nearly unthinkable, Peter Salcido said.

Father and son had many long talks about Rudy's decision to return to Iraq.

"Even with his cousins and his brothers, he was always invincible in a sense," Mr. Salcido said. "People felt safe with him."

On Rudy's wedding day, two comrades hovered over the groom, making sure his dress blues were lint-free, making sure he had everything he needed before he stood to say his vows.

As his father watched the men, he was moved by their simple dedication to one another. It was plain to see, he said, and beautiful to witness.

"That's something that cannot be rehearsed," Mr. Salcido said. "You cannot make people do that."

As of Sunday, at least 2,838 members of the U.S. military had died since the beginning of the war in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.

At the National Guard station in Bakersfield, the mood was quiet Monday morning. One soldier working behind a desk said she and other members of the unit in Bakersfield were not authorized to comment on the loss.

But it's safe to say that for current and former members of the 1114th, especially for those who knew him, Salcido's death will leave a void.

"It's not a question of how you die," Koop said. "It's a question of how you live."

For those of us lucky enough to be parents, Peter Salcido had this advice:

"Love your children and cherish them as much as you can," he said. "Because they are a gift.

"I loved my son so much," he said. "I want everyone to know he died for his country. He died for what he believed in."

From the Bakersfield Californian

Related Link:
Rudy A. Salcido killed by I.E.D.