Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Michael J. Jaurigue dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

TEXAS CITY — On a rainy Memorial Day that hit home like no other, neighbors and complete strangers stopped by Jose and Juana Jaurigue's home here to offer food, sympathy cards, hugs and condolences.

The meaning of the holiday was lost on no one as the couple shared memories of their 20-year-old son, Michael, killed last week with comrades in Iraq.

His mother recalled his words during his last visit home — a blissful two-week break that lasted until the day after Mother's Day.

"He said, 'I'm afraid — but if you're not afraid, you're not a good soldier,'" Juana Jaurigue tearfully said Monday as loved ones and reporters filled her living room.

The Jaurigues learned Saturday that their only son had been killed May 22 when an explosive device went off near his patrol. Jose Jaurigue said his son and the three soldiers who died with him were in a Humvee when the explosion occurred.

"He was a soldier. He was dedicated," said Jose Jaurigue, who retired from the Marines with 22 years of service. "He had a job to do, and he did it."

Michael Jaurigue, born in Hawaii, moved with his family to Texas City when he was 2. Though he was just 15 when 9-11 occurred, the events so saddened him that he resolved to join the military after high school.

He graduated from Dickinson High School in 2004 and joined the Army the next year, going to Fort Benning, Ga., where he attended boot camp and jump school.

Then he relocated to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he joined the 82nd Airborne Division.

It was a move that still makes his father burst with pride at the American Legion Hall. "People would say, 'How's your son?' and I would say, 'He's airborne,'" Jose Jaurigue said.

Michael Jaurigue was deployed to Iraq in August 2006. He called home soon after he arrived, but mostly communicated with his parents and 23-year-old sister by e-mail, often asking them to send him summer sausage and lots of Gatorade.

For the most part, he did not discuss the odds of getting hurt or killed. "He didn't talk too much about his emotions," his father said.

Instead, Michael Jaurigue set his sights on his long-term goal of becoming a Green Beret. "That's why he went to jump school," Jose Jaurigue said.

When Michael Jaurigue left his parents' Texas City home for the last time May 14, his mother asked him to call home once he returned to Iraq. But they never heard from him.

Military officials arrived at his parents' home Saturday to inform them of his death. They are learning more information day by day.

The Jaurigues don't know when their son's remains will be returned home — perhaps some time in the next week, they said. They have not begun planning his funeral.

The family has worshipped for years at St. Mary of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church, where Michael Jaurigue had his First Communion and was confirmed.

"I hope it's worth it, what he's died for," Juana Jaurigue said, wiping away tears. "We don't want anybody else to be in our position.

"He was a wonderful son and friend. He was real sweet, my son. And I'm proud of him."

From the Express News