Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Juan Campos reported to have died in Texas from Iraq IED inuries

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Juan Campos’ last battle is over.

The 27-year-old from McAllen died Friday, his family said, more than two weeks after he was injured while on patrol in Iraq.

Campos was badly burned during a roadside bomb attack and transported back to Texas May 16 in critical condition alongside another Rio Grande Valley soldier, his friend Omar Avila of Brownsville.

For a while, Campos and Avila had adjoining hospital rooms.

Officials at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center, where Campos was being treated, would not confirm his death or say what caused it. Neither would the Pentagon.

Campos’ widow, Jamie Drury-Campos, confirmed his death but said she did not feel ready to talk.

Last month, she described Campos as “this one guy who always does everything right.” He was quiet and loving, she said — and an amazing dancer.

He also leaves behind his 8-year-old son, Andre.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available Friday.

Campos had recently spent several weeks on leave from his second tour in Iraq, spending the downtime in the Valley with his family.

The May 13 attack came just two weeks after he returned to the “Blue Spaders” of the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade, 1-26 Infantry Regiment.

In that attack, near Baghdad, a vehicle carrying Campos and Avila hit an improvised explosive device, or IED, which has been one of the deadliest weapons used against U.S. forces in Iraq.

In San Antonio, Campos was given a 50-50 chance of survival.

“This is our life,” Drury-Campos told The Monitor last month, referring to the uncertainty surrounding her husband’s condition. “It’s like we’re losing our life as he’s slipping away.”

Campos received burns to about 80 percent of his body, his wife said in an interview last month.

The McAllen High School graduate’s kidneys were also damaged, and he had needed a respirator to breathe.

Avila, who broke both his legs and was also badly burned, is expected to survive, said his brother, Cesar Avila.

“Thank God, he’s getting better,” said Cesar, who’s been by his brother’s side in San Antonio. “He’s been talking to us.”

Avila, 21, had his third surgery Friday and is expected to need six or seven more before he leaves the hospital.

“He’s going to be here for a while,” said Cesar. “Another couple of months.”

Read the rest at the Monitor