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thedrifter
05-27-07, 06:16 AM
Daniel Chaires: GRIEVING PARENTS BACK BUSH ON WAR
Saying it would be an insult to the memory of their son to do otherwise, the parents of Daniel Chaires stand firmly behind President Bush.
BY GARY FINEOUT
gfineout@MiamiHerald.com

CHAIRES, Fla. -- Daniel's Garden is hallowed ground for Harry Chaires and his wife, Nanna Cuchens.

This sun-soaked spot just 50 yards from the back door of the Chaires home is the final resting place of Lance Cpl. Daniel Chaires, a 20-year-old rifleman in the Marines who was killed last October during an ambush in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

The night before Chaires went on deployment, he and his father agreed that if he died in battle, he would be buried in the yard of their five-acre homesite, 11 miles east of Tallahassee.

''If you can, just put me in the backyard, so you'll be with me every day,'' Harry Chaires recalls his son telling him.

Near Daniel Chaires' grave are two flagpoles. One carries the American flag, the other a Marine Corps flag. Between the flagpoles is a remarkable sight -- an enormous 18-foot-long section of the trunk of a live oak tree that has a bench carved into it, along with Daniel Chaires' name.

Daniel Chaires is a descendant of one of Leon County's pioneer families. The Chaires name is on the school and community center that sits just across the street from the 90-year-old family home.

To his father, the son followed in his footsteps into the Marines. His father, a captain with the Leon County Sheriff's Office, spent eight years in the Marine reserves. After a year in community college, Daniel Chaires joined the Marine Corps and signed up with the infantry.

Daniel Chaires was eventually assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. He was deployed to Iraq last September, and just six weeks later, his unit was caught in an ambush near the Euphrates River. A bullet ripped through him and severed his femoral artery, his father said.

'`People ask me, `Harry, why didn't you try to stop him? Why didn't you try to stop Daniel from going into the Marines and going to Iraq?' '' his father said. ``I said he wanted to do it, he wanted to follow in my footsteps. He asked his mother and I to abide by his wishes. There was nothing to do but support him.''

Harry Chaires said part of that support will include traveling regularly to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to help wounded Marines. Another mission: getting Florida to emulate Hawaii, which awards a Medal of Honor to all military personnel from Hawaii, or those in a Hawaii-based unit, who are killed.

Supporting the memory of his son also includes standing behind President Bush.

''The most disheartening thing out of this whole venture we have been on is for our Congress to sit and bicker and be torn apart over the handling of the war,'' Chaires said.

``The troops didn't ask to go; they were sent. I wish that the Democrats and Republicans would for once quit abusing the president, our supreme commander, and stand behind him and the troops.

``Because these young men and women hear everything that is being said. It's not right for the parents who are losing their children and for the men and women who are fighting this war to be abused by our own government.''

Chaires and his wife say they don't believe all American families should be forced to sacrifice for this war. But they believe that Americans should stand behind the president until the war is over.

''The American people elect the president,'' said Cuchens, 58 and a professor at the Florida State University College of Nursing. ``If we become uncomfortable with it, there's a process for changing it. But you don't abandon them when they are doing their job. When they are doing their job, they need support.''

Ellie