I unexpectedly found myself crying over the Iraq war as I read the obituary of Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz, a highly praised Army nurse. What I read broke my heart. The story of this remarkable woman and her tragic, pointless killing in Iraq had so much more power than the endless statistics that have numbed our emotions and fed our anger about Bush’s Iraq War.
Maria was just 40 years old. She volunteered for duty in Iraq, eager to do her part. She wanted to take care of soldiers. She was the first Army nurse killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
Everyone who ever worked with Maria adored and respected her. She was one of those truly exceptional people who transcended her professional status with loving care for those she nursed and worked with.
Maria was killed on July 10 in the Green Zone in Baghdad. She was caught outside by a barrage of mortar shells and killed by shrapnel.
Before going to Iraq last fall she was the chief nurse at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic in Aberdeen, Maryland. Many people there broke down in tears when the clinic commander called everyone together to tell them Maria was another casualty of the Iraq War. Renee Smith who had worked with Maria described her as the “jewel of the clinic.” “Her work wasn’t finished until everybody was cared for,” said Smith.
Maria had also served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Medical Command officials are considering naming a building or clinic in her name to honor her memory.
Wendy Schuler, another co-worker at Aberdeen, had sent Maria an email, asking if she needed anything. All Maria wanted was Christmas decorations so she could brighten up the halls at the hospital where she worked. Her colleagues there held a memorial service for her. They talked about how Maria had touched their lives.
Maria started her Army career as an enlisted solder with the Reserve in Puerto Rico in 1991. She became active duty in 1993 and was commissioned an officer in 1999, the year she received her nursing masters degree from the University of Puerto Rico. Dead in 2007.
Upon returning from Iraq, Maria was to marry Juan Casiano, an Army veteran who had guided her career. He said “She touched everyone's lives and everything about her was positive. She always carried a smile. I saw in her what everyone else sees, a beautiful person who brings joy to everyone she touches. There wasn’t anything negative about that woman.”
Maria is also survived by her parents and four sisters. Her father had also served in the Army and said, “She always said to me ‘daddy, I am going to serve 30 years in the army.’” Maria only made it halfway.
Maria will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Maria was just 40 years old with so much more living, loving and service ahead of her. Bush is guilty of her criminally negligent homicide.
I don’t know what Maria thought of the Iraq War. But her death has done more than anything else to make me despise what our disgraceful, delusional and dumb President George W. Bush has done. It will take a long, long time for our nation to heal from the wounds that Bush has viciously and arrogantly inflicted on us.
Maria should not have died from shrapnel in Iraq. And neither should have thousands and thousands of other Americans died and become terribly wounded in Iraq. For what? To keep all the lies of Bush alive until, eventually and inevitably, we leave Iraq, defeated and with even more dead and wounded soldiers?
By then Bush will be back in Texas, disgraced, delusional and dumb as ever. And many, many people will still shed tears when they remember Maria and ask themselves: Why?
And why, I ask, is there any hesitation by any sane member of Congress about impeaching Bush?