Saturday, August 21, 2010

Army Spc Armondo G. Aguilar Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc Armondo G. Aguilar Jr.

At 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 21st, Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. found himself at the end of his short life. He was standing, drunk and weepy, in the parking lot of a Valero station outside Waco, Tex. He had jumped out of his moving pickup. There was a police officer talking to him in frantic tones. Specialist Aguilar held a pistol pointed at his head.

Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. joined the Army partly to pay for music school. This moment had been a long time coming, his family said. He had twice tried to commit suicide with pills since returning from a tough tour in Iraq a year earlier, where his job was to drive an armored vehicle to search for bombs.

“He was a ticking time bomb already,” said the soldier’s father, Armando G. Aguilar Sr.

The Bay City priest who officiated at the soldier’s funeral and talked of his musical gifts said one family member told him the medicine wasn’t working as it was intended.

“He took it and it affected him in a different way. That’s what I was told,” said Father Garry Cernoch, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Bay City, who didn’t know Aguilar.

“He had plans for himself, and he was going to try to work on his music abilities,” Cernoch said, adding that the soldier planned to go to college.

Army doctors had put him on medications for depression, insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks. Specialist Aguilar was seeing an Army therapist every week. But he had been getting worse in the days before his death, his parents said, seeing shadowy figures that were not there, hallucinating that he heard loud noises outside his trailer home.

“He wanted help — he was out there asking for help,” said his father, Armando Aguilar Sr. “He just snapped. He couldn’t control what he was doing no more.”

In Iraq, he did one of the Army’s most dangerous jobs: clearing bombs from roads with other troops in a route clearance team.

Sensing that he was depressed in a phone call from Iraq, his wife, Samantha, sent Aguilar’s favorite guitar to the war zone, where he played for the troops.

But when he came home on midterm leave, “he was very jumpy. He was having nightmares about running in the field and being chased,” said his mother, Amelia Aguilar, 45.

Specialist Aguilar was one of 20 soldiers connected to Fort Hood who are believed to have committed suicide this year. The Army has confirmed 14 of those, and is completing the official investigations of six other soldiers who appear to have taken their own lives — four of them in one week in September. The deaths have made this the worst year at the sprawling fort since the military began keeping track in 2003.

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