Monday, August 06, 2007

Christian Vasquez dies 'from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations'

COALINGA -- When Natividad Molina last heard from her son, a Marine serving in Iraq, he told her everything was fine and that he would be home soon.

Thursday, three Marine officials came to Molina's home to tell her that Christian Vasquez, 20, had been killed. He is the 23rd soldier with Valley ties to be killed in Iraq.

The military has not released details about how the Coalinga High School graduate died. It's unclear what his unit or rank was.

Vasquez, who had been in the Marines two years, had about a month left in the war zone, his family said.

Molina said that when she last talked to her son a month ago, she could detect tension in his voice but as always, he didn't go into details about his mission because he didn't like to worry her.

" 'Don't worry, I'm fine,' " she remembers him saying. " 'Everything's fine.'

"But his voice sounded different," she added.

Her voice breaking at times, Molina said in Spanish that her son had a lifelong love of the Marine Corps. A prominent photo in the home shows Vasquez proudly wearing the dress blues of the Corps while he was stationed in San Diego.

When he was small, he told his mother he wanted to join the Marines.

"He said, 'When I can, that's what I'm going to do,' " she said.

Other family members remembered Vasquez as an even-tempered man who got along with everyone.

"He was just a really good person," said his uncle, Isaias Vasquez, 32. "He never had any problems with anybody. Just a happy person."

Molina said her son was looking forward to finishing his military duty and attending college. His dream was to become a doctor. He grew up in Coalinga and had two brothers, Danny, 13, and Alex, 2. His father, Augustine Vasquez, works at the nearby Harris Ranch.

Vasquez played soccer in high school and continued to love the sport after graduating, Isaias Vasquez said. He was a big fan of the team Cruz Azul.

Family members filled Molina's home Friday, crying, embracing and telling stories about Vasquez. They said his body would be flown into Lemoore Naval Air Station on Monday. A funeral is planned for Thursday in Coalinga.

From the Fresno Bee