Sunday, August 22, 2010

Army Spc. Pedro A. Millet Meletiche

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Pedro A. Millet Meletiche, 20, of Elizabeth, N. J.

Spc. Meletiche was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo; died Aug. 22, 2010 at Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Pedro Millet’s family had a premonition earlier this month when he left for Operation Enduring Freedom. "Something told me not to put him on that plane — something told me he was headed for certain death," George Salado, the Army specialist’s stepfather, said today from his home in Elizabeth.

The family’s fears were realized when, on just his third day in Afghanistan, Millet, 20, was killed in action on Sunday.

The family is still waiting to hear the circumstances, though they said Millet told them in a phone call on Friday — his first day in Afghanistan — that his unit was sweeping for mines. His mother, Denise Meletiche said Millet didn’t call on Saturday and that she began to worry about her only son.

The family is still reeling from the too-quick return of their son and brother. "It’s quite a load, in a short period of time," Salado said.

Millet is at least the 24th service member with ties to New Jersey to die in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. Nearly 100 others have died in Iraq since the invasion in 2003.

Millet graduated from Elizabeth High School in 2008, where he played on the baseball team, family members said. "That was his hobby, baseball," said Meletiche, adding that he was obsessed with the sport.

It was also in high school that Millet was recruited for the U.S. Army, Salado said. The enlistment "came out of the blue" for the family — Meletiche, Salado, and three younger sisters: Kimberly Franco, 19, Tiffany Franco, 16, and Denise Franco, 10.

"He never had any enemies – I never saw him kill a fly. Never," Salado said, explaining he was surprised by his stepson’s decision to join the military.
There was some reluctance among the family for him to go to Afghanistan, and that made it even more difficult for Millet to leave. But the new recruit honored the enlistment papers he signed in 2008, they said. "He tried to be a trooper about it," Salado said.

Kimberly Franco is just a year younger and grew up close to her brother. She’s still in shock, she said. "Right now I still don’t believe it," Franco said. "I have to actually go bury him for me to believe it."

But the family’s anger is bound up in their sorrow, too. "We supported our son, and they just ambushed him… He didn’t even have time to get acclimated to his environment," Salado said.

Family members said that when Millet called home on Friday, he told them he wasn’t feeling well. "He was sick ... and he was sleeping on makeshift cardboard outside," Salado said. "There were a lot of things that were wrong with this situation."

Even before learning their only son had been killed, the family watched with growing apprehension the mounting casualties in Afghanistan. "They’re bringing out our combat troops, and they’re bringing these kids in. We’re losing kids in a war, and what are they doing about it?" Salado said, adding that he’s livid his son’s become a statistic. "This is ridiculous."

Army Spc. Pedro A. Millet Meletiche was killed in action on 8/22/10.

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