by Pa Rock
Alejandro Yazzie was a native Arizonan, a member of the Navajo tribe, and a United States Marine. I say "was" because the twenty-three-year-old young man was killed in Afghanistan last month.
Lance Corporal Yazzie would have slipped into history as little more than a statistic of war had it not been for the fact that National Public Radio (NPR) had a reporter embedded with his unit at the time of his death. That correspondent, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, did an excellent job of bringing the awfulness of the war right into America's living rooms with her report from the war zone that ran this morning.
Nelson made friends with many of the young Marines, including Lance Corporal Yazzie. She talked about the difficulties of being a woman embedded in a Marine unit, highlighting the need to shed a certain amount of modesty in order to function in confines of a small unit in a war zone. And she painted a personal view of what life is really like under those harsh conditions, noting, for instance, that the Marines would often "spoon" as they slept in order to stay warm.
It was Nelson's personalization of the death of Corporal Yazzie that formed the centerpiece of the report. She became friends with him, and just two days before his death had loaned Corporal Yazzie her satellite phone so that he could call his wife on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, he was unable to get through on that call.
When the unit came under fire on February 16th, Nelson hit the dirt with her recorder capturing the sounds of the battle as she tried to stay below the flying bullets. She was close enough to Corporal Yazzie to see him take the bullet that ended his life. Her report was a bloody window onto the awfulness of war.
Alejandro Yazzie grew up in one of the most remote areas of the Navajo Reservation. He graduated from high school in Rock Point, Arizona, and later joined the Marine Corps without telling his family until after the deed was done. He wanted his family to be proud of him, and he wanted to be proud of himself.
In his last letter to his pregnant wife, Kalandra, Alejandro told her: "I know you're happy. I know you two, you and the baby (unborn), consider me as your hero. I'll be back, I promise."
Corporal Alejandro Yazzie won't be back, nor will he ever know the joy of playing with his child, but he will be missed by his family and friends for a very long time. May they find peace in his bravery and sacrifice, and may our country achieve peace in his memory.