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Alex and Karma

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He graduated with his class from Bloomfield High School in 1982, one year ahead of me. I am pretty sure he was not an honor student.  I never really “met” the kid. I was first aware of Alex when he made it clear that he’d rather kick me in the gut than give me the time of day. He wasn’t really a bully when you consider that he did not make it a point to torment me or victimize me. To me—and I mean to say toward me—he was just a spiteful, hateful, deliberate prick. Anytime we crossed paths, he’d treat me like one would treat a stray mangy dog. When you are treated this way by anyone, it sticks. You never forget it. And, if you are like me, you don’t easily forgive it. In short, I never had any use for Alex.

Beirut, Lebanon, October 23, 1983. At approximately 6:22 am local time, a five ton yellow Mercedes Benz flatbed cargo truck loaded with explosives plowed into the Marines compound. The FBI concluded that the explosion was the largest non-nuclear explosion since World War II. The lives of 241 service members were lost that day including 220 Marines. Given the time of day, many of them were asleep when it happened. It was indeed a horrific event. To make matters worse, the Marines had been sent there on a “peace mission”, so they were told not to have live ammunition in their weapons. Further, defenses were scaled back so the Marines would not look so “war-like”. It was as if they were set up.

Out of respect for his parents, who live right next door to mine, I’ll not provide his last name. Perhaps it has already been done, but I understand that his name is to be carved into a stone memorial along with the name of at least one other young man from Bloomfield who recently lost his life in war. I understand the memorial is to be planted on one of the campuses, either the high school, or the middle school near the Administrative Offices of District 6. That’s where the School Board meets, so it would be a big deal to have a memorial nearby.

Alex was one of the Marines killed in Beirut that day. I remember receiving the news the next day from a former high school classmate in the lobby of Coronado Hall, the men’s dorm on the UNM campus. When he told me, my stark emotionless response was quick: “Humph. Too bad.” And I went about my business.

On certain anniversaries—the 25th was in 2008—the local news (New Mexico) does another “Alex the Marine Hero Story”, or some such hype. The cameras roll up, the family is interviewed, and everyone gets their fifteen minutes—again. La-dee-dah. He and his family did not live there when I was in high school. If they had, perhaps I’d have a different story to tell about Alex, assuming I’d be in a position to tell a story at all.

Alex is hailed as hero. Why? As best as I can tell, all he did was enlist in the Marines and get killed in his sleep. It’s tragic. It’s wrong. It’s unfair. It should not have happened. And many would berate me as being “un-American” to speak ill of a “fallen soldier” and start lecturing me on duty, honor, love of country, etc., etc. But I just don’t believe he did anything heroic. Given the way he regarded me, he would have never been my hero. I would not have allowed it. Put another way, if people knew Alex the way I do, they wouldn’t think of him as a hero. They would think what I thought the day I received the news of his death: “Prick got what he deserved.”

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