Saturday, February 24, 2007

Brian A. Escalante dies of injuries from I.E.D.

DODGE CITY - In the wake of Lance Cpl. Brian Escalante's death in Iraq over the weekend, the man's mother, Rebecca Escalante, has learned much of her son.

"To me he was a kid," she said Thursday of the 25-year-old Marine. "But (Marine officials) told me he had a great responsibility over there."

Still, the void remains. "The only thing that we feel here is the loss, not having him around us, not being able to unite," Rebecca Escalante said.

Brian Escalante, who studied at Dodge City High School and Dodge City Community College before joining the U.S. Marines in 2004, died Saturday in the restive Al Anbar province of Iraq while on a combat operation against anti-Iraqi forces. According to the Marines, an improvised explosive device hit the Humvee he was riding in while in the city of Al Chidish and he later died of injuries sustained in the blast.

The man, who was on his second tour of Iraq, leaves behind a wife, Crystal Escalante of Wichita, and a 2-year-old son, Aidyn, among many others.

Faith in God

The U.S. Department of Defense reported Escalante's death Wednesday, but as of Thursday, funeral arrangements were pending, though Rebecca Escalante said her son would be buried at the Kansas Veterans' Cemetery in nearby Fort Dodge. Saturday's blast injured four other Marines as well, two of whom were sent to the United States for care and two who sustained only minor cuts and remain in Iraq.

Whatever the case, the mourning is already in full swing as Escalante's family members - including seven siblings and father Gilbert Escalante - try to cope with the tragedy. The Marine's body is making its way to Kansas from Dover, Del.

"It all goes back to God," said Rebecca Escalante, who operates a tax preparation and bail bond service in Dodge City. "Things that happen, happen for a reason. We don't know why. I just have faith in God."

Escalante, who left Dodge City High School as a junior in 1999 and later studied criminal justice for a spell at Dodge City Community College, was drawn to the Marines because of its reputation as a fierce fighting machine, said his mother. Moreover, the man, a basketball enthusiast who stood over 6 feet tall, harbored a protective side and felt driven by events in Iraq.

"We wanted him to go on to college and continue, but he wanted to go on and serve his country," Rebecca Escalante said.

Whatever the motive, joining the Marines had an impact. His mother described Brian Escalante as a man of few words before joining the service, but said that afterward, he became more expressive and seemed to grow into his own.

"I just noticed how he cared so much more for people after he joined the Marines," she said. One event in particular sticks out - how he once assisted a man at the site of an auto accident, even as the flight that would take him back to his Marine training camp in California prepped to leave.

More recently, her son, in his occasional phone calls home from Iraq, described the place as quiet, almost dull. Only after his death did she learn of all his responsibilities, dealing with weaponry, among others.

Now, Rebecca Escalante figures her son's doing as good as can be expected.

"He's in a better place," she said.

From the Hutchinson News