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Lance Cpl. Juan Rodrigo Rodriguez All photos: courtesy Rodriguez family AFTERWORD I BY MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA Luto en El Cenizo TIE hey were the first fami ly from El Cenizo to lose their son in the war, but as Rodrigo Rodriguez tells me, “We will not be the last.” He is speaking of Lance Cpl. Juan Rodrigo Rodriguez, Webb County’s first casualty in Iraq. There are at least 30 soldiers from El Cenizo fighting in the war, according to Rodrigo. When he speaks about Juan’s death, he refers to it as “the accident,” though in fact the 23-year-old reservist died in an enemy fire explosion in the AlAnbar Province on January 13, 2005. The explosion ripped open the unarmored Humvee in which he had been traveling with four other soldiers, all members of Company C of the Marine Reserve’s First Battalion, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division. The vehicle’s driver, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew W. Holloway, 21, of Fulton, was also killed. The other three were seriously injured. As we sit in the kitchen of their home in El Cenizo, Rodrigo and Juanita Rodriguez, their dark eyes moist pools of love and longing, speak of their son with trembling tenderness. “The last time I dreamed of Juan was two days before the accident. “I dreamed he was already here. I was so happy in the dreamthat he was homethat I cried. I told my wife I had dreamed of Juan, and that my tears were of happiness, but the terrible surprise was that Juan would die. “I had been resting the afternoon the car pulled up to the house. “From the window I saw the uniforms and the white hats. I answered the door, and I felt the world had fallen in on me, that everything would be over. I wanted to tell them to leave, that I didn’t want them here, but of course, they were just men doing their job, so I told them, Tame razon de mi hijo.”‘ “We were told that the United States is indebted to us for the loss of our son. That loss will never be repaid?’ On the day of Juan’s funeral, his first school, Leon Daiches Elementary in Laredo, held a memorial service. Children lined up at the fence on Meadow Street as the cortege drove south from the funeral home in the Heights. They held up a sign that read “We will always have you in our hearts.” Meanwhile, the front and side doors of the Santa Monica Mission in El Cenizo were opened, so that everyone standing outside could hear the mass offered by Bishop James. A. Tamayo. Ihad to ask only once on the streets of El Cenizo where to find the Rodriguez home. Casa azul en la Calle Morales, troquita Ford colo rada, un liston de luto en el porton. On the afternoon that we first met, Juanita and Rodrigo shared many stories about the ways they love their children, Juan and Fatima, and how they raised and nurtured them. We sat at the kitchen table and spoke of war and loss and grief. We looked at photographs and everything else that would tell the story of Juan, who was a year older than Fatima \(but born the same month, November, so they always who helped his father build the extraordinarily tidy home on Calle Morales, with its tile patterns on the outside walkway, the large and well-tended yard, and the beautiful kitchen filled with light; who loved school so much that he would never tell his parents when he was sick; whose pasatiempos were watching football and hockey games; whose vicio was milk \(he could drink a gallon of milk and eat four bananas at a I hadn’t traversed the streets of El Cenizo since the mid-1990s when I covered environmental stories, water stories, and lack of infrastructure stories in the little colonia that was once filled with plywood shacks, dilapidated trailers, and the occasional cement block APRIL 15, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29