The San Francisco Chronicle runs a heart-wrenching story about the mother and family of Natividad de Jesús Méndez Ramos, the first Salvadoran soldier to die in combat in Iraq. The death of her son, the loss of his soldier's income, and the lack of any compensation from the Salvadoran or US government has deepened their poverty. Here is an excerpt:
Even though Saddam Hussein never posed a threat to Central America, and the national security of the United States is a concern only to those Salvadorians lucky enough to survive the harrowing migratory journey to "El Norte," 35 local boys [from Ahuachapan Province] have fought side-by-side with the American armed forces near Najaf, north of Baghdad.
The war in Iraq has given them a chance to see the outside world and people far from the dusty streets of their home villages. Many have returned with the spoils of war from the deserts of the Middle East, along with eye- popping stories.
But one, Natividad de Jesús Méndez Ramos, didn't make it home. "Tivito" died on April 4, 2004, in Najaf when his 16-member squad ran out of ammunition while fighting Iraqi insurgents, and were forced to wield knives. His body now rests in an elaborate grave site in the cemetery outside of Guaymango, which was given by the Salvadorian military. Tivito's mother, Herminia Ramos, received condolences from her government, but no more.
Today she struggles to live. She is a widow and mother of five living in a humble dwelling where sickly chickens and flea-infested dogs compete for every inch of shade and drop of water.