Marine killed Monday in Iraq identified

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — A Hawaii-based Marine died during combat operations in Iraq’s Anbar province, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

Lance Cpl. Anthony Aguirre, 20, of Channelview, Texas, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force at Kaneohe Bay.

Her lips tightly pursed, Christina Castillo took two heavy steps toward the loose mound of tan earth. With each one, a wisp of dust was carried away in the wind.

Wrapping her fingers around the shovel handle, Castillo paused, feeling the weight of the tool as tears streamed down her cheeks. Then, with a weak smile, she shoved the blade into the dirt. Her family followed her lead and sank their shovels into the ground as well.

Amid a flurry of applause, Castillo wiped away her tears as she stood in the spot that would soon carry on her deceased brother’s legacy — Lance Cpl. Anthony Aguirre Junior High.

Aguirre was 20 years old when he died on Feb. 26, 2007, on patrol in Iraq. The 2004 Channelview High School graduate gave his life to save more than 20 of his fellow Marines that day. On Wednesday, his family joined community and school district leaders to break ground on the school that will bear his name.

“Anthony was our student, a Marine and a hero,” said Greg Ollis, Channelview ISD superintendent. “This is a fitting way for us to pay tribute to him. This has been long in the making.”

In November 2009, the district’s voters approved an $11 million bond issue that included the construction of a new junior high school. The facility will be the second junior high in the district and will ease crowding at Alice Johnson Junior High.

‘The ultimate sacrifice’
School trustees voted in 2010 to name the junior high after Aguirre. The decision was unanimous, Ollis noted.

“Through his dedication and devotion, he made the ultimate sacrifice to his fellow man,” Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman said. “He accomplished his goal of serving in one of the toughest branches of our military.”

Morman, accompanied by a representative from U.S. Rep. Gene Green’s office, presented Castillo with a proclamation honoring Aguirre for service to his country.

More than four years ago, Aguirre was on a routine sweep of his unit’s regular patrol area in Iraq when he realized he had stepped onto an improvised explosive device.

Knowing that raising his foot would set off the mine, he yelled for the rest of his unit to take cover. He waited until all his fellow Marines were out of harm’s way before lifting his foot and triggering the device.

“The IED had been placed to go off as the Humvee parked in its usual spot,” Castillo said she was told. “It was connected to two 30-pound tanks of propane. Had my brother not been at the exact spot, every one of the troops – including my brother – would have perished.”

Recounting Aguirre’s path to becoming a hero, Castillo told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking that her brother had dreamed of being a Marine from a young age.

Joined Junior ROTC
“When Anthony was a little boy he came across a small brown jacket with a small Marine emblem,” his sister said. “It was his prized possession. Since that day, he wanted nothing more than to serve his country.”

Aguirre joined the Junior ROTC at Channelview High, and worked his way through the ranks to company commander. During his senior year in high school, he achieved the rank of cadet captain.

The Channelview High School ROTC Color Guard was on hand for the event, as were several Channelview ISD trustees.

One year after graduating from high school, Aguirre made his dream come true and joined the Marine Corps.

As a member of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force in Hawaii, he was eventually deployed to Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

Mission accomplished
“Anthony’s sole purpose on Earth was to be there that day so those men he was serving with could come home to their families,” Castillo said. “Because of this honor, our community will never forget his sacrifice.

“Since the day of my brother’s death, it has been my mission to see that the community he loved so much would always remember his sacrifice,” Castillo said. “Four years, one month and 25 days later, we have achieved that mission.”