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Why I Serve: Fallen Friend, Son Motivate Soldier

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28, 2005 – The ground operation here two years ago was a tough one for Army Spc. Eddie Aguilar.

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Army Spc. Eddie Aguilar from 3rd Infantry Divisions 2nd Brigade said hes motivated during his second deployment to Iraq by the memory of his fallen close friend and mentor and hopes for his young son. By Donna Miles
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

As he and his fellow members of 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade, 64th Armor, were pushing north and into Baghdad, his wife was at home giving birth to their son, born April 1. Aguilar, who said he had to push thoughts about his son out of his mind so he could focus on his mission, got official word of the birth two weeks later.

But even more emotionally difficult, he said, was the loss of his close friend and mentor, Staff Sgt. Stephan Booker. Booker died during an attack by Republican Guard troops as the unit was clearing the road leading to what was then called Saddam Hussein International Airport on April 5, 2003.

Booker's death, Aguilar said, left everyone "stunned." Aguilar, still devastated by the loss, said he thinks of Booker often, and the example he set for his soldiers.

"He was the first person I met when I got to the unit," Aguilar said. "He taught me all the ins and outs."

Today, Aguilar is deployed once again to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division, this time working in the 2nd Brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. The division's mission here is markedly different from two years ago. Rather than combat operations, it's focused on fighting the insurgency and helping the Iraqi people build their country.

As he carries out the mission, Aguilar said he's found gratification in seeing the Iraqis build their country and feels good about being part of the progress.

But he said he has a more personal motivator, to ensure that his friend Booker did not die for nothing. So he's taking the lessons he learned from his NCO and sharing them with other, more junior soldiers.

Booker taught him a lot, Aguilar said. "He taught me that you always look out for your battle buddy, and that if I ever needed help, he'd be there for me," Aguilar said. "He also taught me that your fellow soldiers are your family here, people you can turn to and count on."

"I'm taking what Sergeant Booker taught me and passing it on," he said.

Aguilar said he has another motivation during his deployment: to make sure the son born when he was here two years ago here never has to serve in Iraq. "If I had to do this one more time to prevent my son from having to, I would," he said.

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