June 16, 1980 to May 29, 2008
Flawed like the rest of us
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following message, posted originally in Spanish by a woman named Gloria, was in reaction to a Los Angeles Times obituary devoted to Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez, 27, of Los Angeles, a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Green Berets, who died as a result of small arms fire on May 29, 2008 in Shewan, Afghanistan. More than anything else, the poignancy of the response rests in the first sentence, which stands as one of the most memorable (if not the most memorable) tributes to a young man who, while flawed like the rest of us, so loved his country that he made the ultimate sacrifice.
A womanizer, liar, and drinker
“You were a womanizer, liar, and drinker. But this does not take away your good qualities. You were human, and like all humans you made errors. Nobody knows about me or about our love, and they never will know in reality what happened with us. It made me sad to see you buried and your death in this way. But my comfort is my memories of you and the time we lived together. We were very happy in that time. What I do know is that your only and true love was your work. You died doing what you wanted most in life. In reality I never understood what it was that you did but just hearing you talk about it was enough to know that you enjoyed it. Now you can rest, you did your part in this battle. You will always live in my heart. Gloria”
Into his third deployment
A native of Mexico, Nunez was less than a month into his third deployment, his second in Afghanistan, when his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while conducting a reconnaissance patrol in the Farah province.
But these spare facts hardly spell out the drama of events that evolved over many hours, when a combined mission given to Special Operations teams of U.S. Marines, Army and Afghan Commandos were sent to reinforce Afghan National Army troops under fire in the village of Kanask.
According to an unnamed Army Special Forces team leader who participated in the mission, the teams were diverted to Shewan, where they met considerable enemy fire. Coalition airplanes responded with precision air strikes, the team leader said, and took out the enemy positions. The teams cleared a second village of militants, then headed back to Shewan, thinking the mission was over.
Stalling technique to set up the ambush
“As we came to the village of Shewan,” the team leader explained, “we saw women and children leaving by foot and on a tractor. We also had our movements slowed by a large truck that kept moving back and forth across the road.” It turned out to be a stalling technique to set up an ambush. Two rocket-propelled grenades exploded about 50 meters in front of the team leader’s vehicle, followed by the crack of small arms and machine gun fire. “My thoughts at the time were echoed by my turret gunner, who said ‘here we go again.'”
Disabled and trapped
Due to the heavy enemy presence on both sides of the road, the team leader gave the order to fire. Suddenly, the vehicle in front of the team leader’s was struck by two RPG’s, leaving it disabled and trapped in the middle of the ambush. David Nunez, the father of two young sons, was the driver. Under a constant barrage of bullets and RPGs, the team leader instructed his own driver to push to the front of the disabled vehicle and initiate a tow. The vehicle was in flames and an explosion imminent, making it difficult to get to Nunez. The team leader said he believes that in the dust and smoke, the blazing vehicle was also bumped by another truck, causing it to roll off the road.
The vehicle was completely engulfed in flames
“I was beginning to run after the vehicle to my soldier when I saw three Marines cross the ambush line, completely exposing themselves in an attempt to save him. [They were unable to rescue Nunez] because the vehicle was completely engulfed in flames,” said the team leader, who began laying suppressive fire for the Marines.
In the vehicle rode a hero, the team leader said.
Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez, a Bronze Medal-winning Green Beret out of Fort Bragg, N.C. and Special Forces senior engineer, was the only U.S. casualty of the engagement. According to his team leader, he died the same way that he lived–doing his best for his country and loved ones.
Nunez is survived by his sons, David Jr., and Julian, of Raeford, N.C.; father, Julian Nunez, of Raeford, N.C.; and mother, Silvia Nunez, of Los Angeles, Calif. [KBL]