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N.M. Marine Killed in Iraq

By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
    LAS CRUCES— Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Chavez, 20, died in Iraq doing what he had dreamed of since his childhood— being a soldier, his father said Thursday.
    Steven Chavez's family in the Hondo Valley of south-central New Mexico was informed of the Marine's death about 8 p.m. Wednesday, about 15 hours after his last phone call home.
    His father, Eddie Chavez, said his son shipped out of Camp Pendleton in California in September and arrived in Kuwait in November, shortly before traveling to a base in Ramadi, Iraq.
    Steven Chavez "only had one more week out, and then he was coming back," his father said in a telephone interview.
    "He said, 'Dad, do you have my fishing rod ready?' '' Eddie Chavez recalled of the 5 a.m. call from his son Wednesday morning. "I said, 'I'll get it ready, and we'll go.' ''
    Chavez was a gunner with what his father called the 2-4 Marine Division.
    Chavez was a 2005 graduate of Hondo Valley High School, his father said. He was athletic and loved the outdoors— fishing, hunting and camping. He was a 4-H member for at least six years, participated in track and basketball and excelled as a linebacker in six-man football, his father said.
    Eddie Chavez served 12 years in the Army as a combat engineer, and, as a boy, Steven Chavez told his father that he, too, wanted to be a soldier. Since sixth grade, his father said, Steven Chavez's favorite clothing was camouflage gear.
    "I can remember him always running around the hills here in camo," next-door neighbor Danelle Martel said. "He died living his dream, and he died for us."
    Steven Chavez joined the Marines just months after graduating from high school.
    The Department of Defense had not confirmed Chavez's death late Thursday. The circumstances of his death were still unclear, Eddie Chavez said.
    Steven Chavez is survived by a sister, Jackie Chavez, 22; a brother, James Chavez, 11; his father; and his mother, Novelda Chavez.
    If his death is confirmed by the Department of Defense, Chavez will be the 31st serviceman from, or with close ties to, New Mexico to be killed in the Middle East.


E-MAIL writer Rene Romo