View Full Version : Bosque Farms School plants tree in honor of former student

02-04-06, 07:54 AM
Saturday, February 4, 2006
Bosque Farms School plants tree in honor of former student who was killed in Iraq

Brandy Slagle News-Bulletin Staff Writer; bslagle@news-bulletin.com

Los Lunas Coleen Hildebrandt's voice alters over the phone from the school hallway where she works in northern New Mexico.

She is remembering a warm October afternoon, fresh air drifting in the through the screen door.

She was on the phone, waiting for the babysitter to watch her two girls for the evening when the unfamiliar car pulled up her driveway. Two strange men in uniform climbed out of the car and began walking toward the front porch. They were Marines.

She knew right away.

"I told the girls to go to their rooms and shut the door. I don't know why I did that. They're big enough girls. They knew something was wrong," she said.

Hildebrandt had always been told that if the Marines showed up on her doorstep in their blue uniforms it meant that her child was dead.

Scrambling for hope, she said, she noticed they were dressed in green and immediately clung to the idea that her son, Chad, had been injured in Iraq.

She played out scenes of catching quick flights to Germany to be by his side.

"Chad had been home on pre-deployment leave and torn out part of the porch," she said. "I kept telling them 'Uh-uh. No. No. You can't come up here.'"

Hildebrandt met them at the back door where they told her that her son, who had celebrated his 22nd birthday less than a week earlier, had been shot in the head somewhere along the Syrian boarder in Iraq.

He was gone.

Within the next few hours, the shell-shocked mother called her husband and made him pull over the car alongside the road before sharing the painful news and saw her two daughters, Amberly and Ashley, grapple with the first major loss of their lives.

When the small community of Maxwell, N.M., discovered the news, Hildebrandt said her house was flooded with visitors.

The Marines never left her side, taking care of all the details while the shock seemed to intensify.

"I know he's gone. I touched him, but I don't know that I believe it," she said. "It's like you're waiting for that quick phone call and it doesn't come. I expect to hear him on the line saying he's only got two minutes to talk, and can I send him socks and Copenhagen. The call doesn't come."

When Chad entered kindergarten at Bosque Farms Elementary, she said, he was just like the other kids — he played with Ninja Turtles and GI Joes, liked taking trips with his family each summer and adored his mother's homemade mac-n-cheese, which she has been unable to cook since his death.

When work moved them away from Valencia County, Chad continued on the path of a healthy young man — playing football, basketball and baseball as well as competing in track. He pulled daredevil stunts on his skis each winter, discovered a love for performing with the local drama club, loved country music and drank a gallon of sweet tea each day.

Inquisitive, Chad liked to take things apart to see how the worked, but was reluctant to put something back together.

"He wasn't a mechanic," she said. "He would call and say something about how he needed a new microwave because his stopped working right and he had taken the whole thing apart."

Very involved with the Future Farmers of America, Chad wanted to pursue agricultural mechanics.

Patriotic, he was convinced that he wanted to become a Marine. He enlisted his senior year of high school. One week after his graduation in 2003, Chad left for boot camp.

"He was gentle. He never argued or fought. There is some hard training in the Marines, all branches of the military have their challenges, but the Marines have it harder," she said. "I think that it had gotten to him some when he got out of boot camp.

"There were two soldiers that got shot that day. Chad was the second. I think that maybe God knew that he never would have been able to live with what he saw that day and was merciful on him," she said.

While the loss is formidable, Hildebrandt also says it is a loss of pride.

"Not many parents can say that their child died so that you can do what it is you want to do," she said.

She called her mother-in-law, Marylin, the same afternoon.

Marylin, who still lives in Bosque Farms and works part-time at Bosque Farms Elementary, said she knows her grandson felt he was doing the right thing overseas.

"He knew he was serving a good cause," she said. "It was a very sad day. Unexpected."

Marylin said it was also unexpected that David Wells, who was then principal at Bosque Farms Elementary, wanted to recognize the former student in a public ceremony.

"We were grateful, of course," she said. "When he left during Christmas and we had Fred Pomeroy come in as principal, he said he wanted to pick up the ball on the project."

Pomeroy, who set the public ceremony for 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, said he felt it was essential the recognition effort was completed.

A tree will be planted in Chad Hildebrandt's honor and a plaque dedicated to the fallen Marine will be placed on the school campus.

Coleen said her son requested to be buried next to his brother, Garrett, who died in infancy.

"He told me once that the Marines are a different breed, he said, they accept their mortality and what is what makes them good Marines," she said.

The family will be present for the ceremony.