Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Marquis J. McCants dies of 'wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using an IED and small arms fire'

Violence in Iraq has taken the life of another San Antonian, an aspiring musician who joined the Army to treat the wounded and support his family.

Spc. Marquis Jermaine McCants, 23, was one of two soldiers killed Friday when their unit was attacked with an explosive and small arms fire. McCants, who graduated from O'Connor High School in 2001, had a wife and three children.

“Specialist McCants distinguished himself by providing lifesaving care on several occasions to members of the Red Falcons and the Iraqi people,” Capt. Phillip Smith, rear detachment commander of McCants' battalion, said in a statement.

“Red Falcons” is the battalion's Army moniker.

McCants was on his first deployment to Iraq. He and the other soldier who died, Sgt. 1st Class Scott J. Brown, 33, of Windsor, Colo., were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

In his statement released Monday by the 82nd Airborne's public affairs office, Smith described McCants as a devoted professional.

“His medical knowledge, grace under pressure and attentive care to the men of his platoon earned him respect far beyond his rank and experience,” Smith said.

McCants is the 28th San Antonian killed in action in Iraq, and the first known graduate of O'Connor. Including McCants, 20 soldiers from the Alamo City, as well as six Marines and two airmen, have died in service there.

“I want to be able to save my friends,” McCants would say while attending advanced combat medic training at Fort Sam Houston, his father recalled.

Still, even though his son chose the risks of being an airborne medic, Savage McCants said he's angry over his loss.

“As far as I'm concerned, this war is a personal agenda for the president,” said the father, a retired Air Force master sergeant.

“I never did agree with the war,” he said. “We're not winning anything. We have no real mission over there.

“The only thing that's keeping me from losing my mind over this is my faith in God.”

McCants was 17, about to start his senior year in high school, when he and his father spoke to San Antonio Express-News columnist Cary Clack in August 2000. McCants had been arrested near the Alamo for jaywalking a few weeks earlier.

His father accused the San Antonio Police Department of targeting African American youth unfairly, amid troubles with local youth gangs, and criticized police for putting his son in a police wagon and taking him to the Police Department.

Al Philippus, the San Antonio police chief at the time, investigated police reports of McCants' and others that same night, and called those actions “a form of zero tolerance” that went too far.

“It was inappropriate, and I've put a halt to it,” Philippus said at the time.

McCants' mother, Belinda McCants, said she didn't think the episode had a lasting impact on her son.

Born on Aug. 4, 1983, McCants lived in San Antonio from 1988-92 and 1997-2005. He worked at the Sam's Club on Northwest Loop 410 for about two years before joining the Army in 2005.

“Marq,” as he was known, had a loving spirit and a lot of friends at Marshall and O'Connor high schools, his father said.

“He couldn't stand to see anybody down,” he said.

McCants hoped to earn a degree in music and begin producing hip-hop albums.

“He really didn't think the war would last,” his father said. “Music was his true love. He'd sit down and write music and lyrics.”

He turned to military service to provide a stable income for his wife and children.

“Everything Marquis did was for his family,” his father said.

McCants also is survived by his wife, Andrea McCants of San Antonio, two daughters and one son. Other survivors include his mother, Belinda McCants of San Antonio, three sisters and two brothers.

From the San Antonio Express News