Thursday, November 24, 2005

Army Pfc. Marc A. Delgado

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Marc A. Delgado, 21, of Lithia, Fla.

Pfc Delgado was assigned to the 170th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed Nov. 24 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee causing it to flip into a canal in Baghdad. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Steven C. Reynolds.

BRANDON - He was the 250-pound football player who smothered his mother with kisses. The respectful soldier who would put superior officers in bear hugs and yell, "Leadership sandwich!"

Stories about Marc Delgado kept a church full of family and friends laughing Tuesday.

But the loss of his young life and the pain of his absence left them in tears.

Pfc. Marc Delgado, 21, was killed Thanksgiving Day in Baghdad when an explosive device flipped his vehicle into a canal.

Delgado had been assigned to the Army's 170th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash.

A 2003 graduate of Durant High School, Delgado would come to his friends' aid in any crisis, they said at his funeral Tuesday.

"His loyalty as a friend surpasses anyone I've known," childhood buddy John Coggins, 20, told a packed Providence Baptist Church on a dreary, overcast morning.

Coggins, much smaller than his friend, would talk trash as a young boy, but Marc was always there to protect him if he got into trouble, he said.

When another buddy, Steven Ginty, needed help in a school play after two classmates stood him up, Delgado agreed to play both parts. Standing 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Delgado played a crazy man and then a queen to a 5-foot-5 king.

"It was quite a sight to see," Coggins said.

Coggins and Ginty would drive up Delgado's driveway every morning during high school to pick him up. Delgado, who insisted that they had to leave his house no later than 7:10, would fly out the door right on time, wearing only his pants, carrying his shirt and shoes.

It seemed like yesterday "when we would dress up like our favorite superheroes and fight imaginary bad guys in the front yard," Coggins said.

But before he knew it, Delgado - known as the "O-line Ogre" to his high school football teammates - was leaving for the service.

His mother, Ellen Delgado, said earlier that she had tried to talk him into going into the Navy, like his brother, Eric, who appeared at the service in his uniform. But he wanted to serve in the Army, like his grandfather.

Army Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson spoke to the crowd, saying he had wanted to come not out of duty but because he knew Delgado.

Johnson, a commandant at the U.S. Military Police School in Missouri, said Delgado was chatty and friendly during his training, when most of his peers were too intimidated to talk to Johnson beyond, "Yes, sir."

"He joined the military when we were a nation at war," Johnson said.

Delgado knew the danger he was entering but made the sacrifice anyway, he said.

Johnson's daughter was Delgado's platoon leader in Iraq.

She would e-mail her father every few days, and Delgado was often a topic of her correspondence.

"Someone looks like they need a hug today," Delgado would call out to other soldiers before wrapping his huge frame around them, Johnson's daughter told him.

The night before his last mission, he hugged two superior officers in a "leadership sandwich," as Delgado called it, Johnson said.

After his speech, Johnson presented Delgado's family with his Purple Heart, Bronze Star and medal for good conduct.

Delgado was posthumously promoted to specialist.

Delgado had looked forward to coming home this February to see his family and celebrate the 21st birthday he had in November, friends said.

Pastor David Stockard, who presided over the service, said Delgado grew up with his son at Providence Christian School, where Stockard was the administrator.

Delgado was a soldier of God as well as a fighter for the country, Stockard said. He regularly attended church and Bible study and worried about getting right with God before he was baptized in February 2001, Stockard said.

Though a protector of his 16-year-old brother, Bryce, Delgado struggled to find his place in life and the family.

"He was that middle child, always trying to find a niche," Stockard said. "But he found a place in our hearts."

Stockard also presided over Delgado's kindergarten graduation, handing him his diploma in the exact spot on the altar from where he spoke Tuesday behind Delgado's casket.

The kindergarten graduation ceremony was taped. The children were asked what they wanted to do when they got older.

"Marc said, "I want to be a policeman,' " Stockard said. "He died being a policeman."

Army Pfc. Marc A. Delgado was killed in action on 11/24/05.

No comments: