On Sunday, January 9, 2005, nineteen-year-old Andres Raya shot two police officers, killing Sergeant Howard Stevenson of the Ceres Police Department, and was himself killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Raya had served seven months in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines of the 1st Marine Division. Though he served in the infamous Sunni Triangle, the military denied he had participated in the assault on Fallujah.
Andres Raya and Howard Stevenson will not be entered on the official casualty list for the war in Iraq but they are both casualties of the war as certainly as the Iraqi civilians who were not targeted by American bombs but died under them just the same.
Characterized as a possible suicide by cop, the story of Andres Raya made national news because it was captured on the surveillance tape of a local liquor store. It is symbolic of the untold story of war. In the coming years, thousands of similar stories will unfold in towns and cities across America. They will not make the national news wires. They will not be featured on television newscasts. They will not usually be so dramatic: Stories of domestic abuse, alcohol or drug related rage, homelessness and crime statistics. They will only be reported as local interest stories, buried in the back pages where few will notice – like the fallen soldiers themselves.
The untold stories of war fall under the category of collateral damage. Hundreds and thousands of trained killers survive their missions only to come home to a life for which they are no longer prepared. They have seen what men and women should not see. They have engaged in operations that brought them face to face with the death of innocents, women and children. They have lived in an environment where no one could be trusted, where the father of a smiling, waving child could be the enemy, where local hatred for the occupying army is ubiquitous, and where they learn to hate and kill indiscriminately, before an unknown enemy strikes first.
The untold story of the first Gulf War was sickness and infirmity, a debilitating syndrome neglected and denied by both the government and the military. The untold story of Vietnam was a lost generation of soldiers not unlike Andres Raya, whose family and friends agree, did not want to go back to Iraq.
Raya was recruited at Ceres High School where Staff Sergeant Robert Tellez pegged him as a possible career man. He knew what he was signing up for but, when he returned, as Araceli Valdez told San Francisco Chronicle reporters Meredith May and Matthew B. Stannard (1/12/05), “That man on the liquor store surveillance cameras wasn’t our cousin. He wasn’t Andy anymore.”
According to the Marines, while Raya’s battalion was engaged in the assault on Fallujah, his unit was not involved and Raya saw little direct combat.
According to Alex Raya: “He told us about going into homes and shooting them up. He said he wouldn’t pull the trigger a lot because he didn’t want to kill anyone. He kept saying it was a war that had no point, that it was all for oil, and it made no sense that we were after bin Laden but went after Saddam Hussein instead.”
He had nightmares, often staring into space and locking himself in his room for hours.
As Marisa Raya said, “How can you see the things he saw and not be affected in your soul?”
To those who continue to ignore the deceptions and lies of our government because of their overriding need to support our troops, take a good hard look at Andres Raya. He was a Marine, strong and tough as they come. He wanted to make a life for himself. He wanted his family to be proud. He was not so different from any other mother’s son or daughter until he came home from the war.
At a time when the military is hitting our high schools, malls and soda shops, looking for fresh recruits, talking tough about patriotism, honor and duty, who will tell the story of Andres Raya? Who will give testimony to the dark side of war? Who will talk about the Gulf War Syndrome, the soldiers who threw their medals away, or the veterans who could no longer endure? Who will tell them why daddy turned to drugs or ended his own life? Who will tell them about Hearts and Minds or Johnny Get Your Gun?
It is time to get the military out of our high schools or, if they will not, it is time to call on the veterans of war for the other side of truth. If we send our kids to war without giving them the full and unvarnished picture of what they will face, we are almost as guilty as the warlords themselves, who never served, who never risked their own lives or the lives of their loved ones, but who are perfectly willing to raise the flag for the Fourth of July parade.
Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II. The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, FirstPeoplesCentury, Trinicenter, Global Research and other notable sites. The Jazzman Chronicles are available at City Lights Bookstore in SF. Visit his website: www.jackrandom.com.
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