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thedrifter
07-01-05, 09:36 AM
Dumont Marine badly hurt after suicide attack in Fallujah
Friday, July 1, 2005
By EUNNIE PARK
STAFF WRITER


DUMONT - A 20-year-old Marine from Dumont is in critical condition after last week's suicide attack on a convoy of female Marines returning to their base in Iraq, her family said.

Cpl. Angelica Jimenez suffered severe burns to her face and body when the convoy she was riding in was ambushed in Fallujah.

Jimenez is hospitalized in Germany and on a respirator, said Claudia Jimenez, her sister. When she can be taken off the respirator, she will be moved to the burn unit at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Claudia Jimenez said.

Officials at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where Jimenez was based, would neither confirm nor deny her condition.

The attack, for which al-Qaida in Iraq has claimed responsibility, killed six service members. Three of the six soldiers killed and 11 of the 13 Marines wounded were women, according to the Marine Corps.

"It's not right," said Claudia Jimenez. "Women shouldn't be in combat, period."

Jimenez joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Dumont High School in 2002. The youngest of eight siblings, Jimenez joined the Marines because she wanted to travel a lot - like her brother Ralph, a staff sergeant, said her sister. She aspired to become a physical therapist later.

The family lived in Dumont for more than 30 years. Jimenez's parents have since moved to Florida, but many still fondly recall the family.

"She was the type of person that anybody would be proud to have as a daughter," said Rich Chiandusse, the high school band director, adding that she is a fine flute player. "There was not a day in the four years that [I had her as a student] that she didn't greet me with a smile."

Jimenez's former supervisor at Holy Name Hospital, where she worked as a part-time dietary aide, describes her as a quiet, bright and goal-oriented woman who had great rapport with everyone in the hospital.

"The patients loved her," said Fontella Scott, the operations manager. "She went the extra mile for them."

Over the past few months, Holy Name has sent several packages to soldiers serving in Fallujah. Upon hearing of Jimenez's injury, the staff also put together a crisis fund for the family.

Jimenez and many of the women who were injured in the bombing trained together at Camp Lejeune, her sister said. They served together in Ramadi, their first stop in Iraq, and had to spend one month in Fallujah. The attack occurred during their second week in Fallujah.

Cpl. Ramona Valdez of the Bronx, who was one of the women killed in the attack, was one of Jimenez's friends, said her sister.

The attack last week involved the highest number of U.S. military female casualties in one day during the Iraq war. It also renewed the debate over the role of women in the U.S. military.

Claudia Jimenez, for one, thinks that the combat unit is no place for females.

"They shouldn't be there at all," she said. "No, no, uh-uh. It's just not right."

Military policy prohibits women from serving in front-line combat roles, such as the infantry or artillery. However, with no real "front lines" in Iraq, female soldiers have seen more close-quarters combat than in any previous war.

Jimenez's duty was to pat women down at the Fallujah border. Women are used in this role because it is considered insulting to Muslims if a man searches a woman.

Her biggest fear was that she might trigger a bomb while doing her job.

She was weary of the war and her bright attitude had changed dramatically since arriving in Iraq, her sister said.

"She was very depressed, and she was having nightmares," Claudia Jimenez said. "Especially Fallujah - you don't sleep, you hear the bombs all night. She always said, 'This is not a war. This is a suicide war.'"

And with the recent turn of events, Claudia Jimenez's hatred for the war keeps growing, she said.

"This has to stop, there are so many dying already," she said. "So many hurt, so many dead. Enough is enough."

E-mail: parke@northjersey.com

Ellie