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News ::
Quincy native killed in Iraq. Mom: "We want these guys home" (english)
03 Sep 2003
She urged mothers to seek a pullout of US troops from Iraq, saying, "They need to get up in arms and call senators and say, `We want these guys home because they're getting killed off.' "
N.E. kin grieve for 2 killed in Iraq
National Guardsmen die when Humvee hits mine
By David Abel, Globe Staff, 9/3/2003

On Monday morning, in a convoy on the outskirts of Baghdad, Quincy native Sergeant Charles Todd Caldwell drove a Humvee on a routine patrol along one of the Army's major supply routes through Iraq.

Next to him, Staff Sergeant Joseph Camara, the team's commander and a New Bedford police officer, kept the convoy on course while Specialist Edmund Aponte of Providence stood gripping a machine gun.

The three Rhode Island National Guardsmen ran over a homemade mine, perhaps a coffee can or an old shell, and it exploded, instantly killing Caldwell and Camara and leaving Aponte with serious shrapnel wounds to the neck. They were the first combat casualties from the state's National Guard since World War II, officials said.

"He had a heart of gold," said Camara's sister Diane Xavier. Reached with other grieving relatives at the family's New Bedford home, she noted how he once charged into a burning building to save his neighbor's life.

Caldwell's mother, Gladys Caldwell of Quincy, told WLVI-TV last night that the family is "very sad and heartbroken. Of course, we've been crying all night." She urged mothers to seek a pullout of US troops from Iraq, saying, "They need to get up in arms and call senators and say, `We want these guys home because they're getting killed off.' "

As of yesterday morning, 285 US soldiers had been killed in Iraq, 147 of them since the end of heavy fighting on May 1. "This is a dark time for not only the Rhode Island National Guard, but the entire state," said Major General Reginald Centracchio, the state adjutant general and commander of the state's guardsmen, who yesterday released the men's names. "We hoped this day would never come."

Caldwell, 38, had moved his planned wedding up by several months and married an Attleboro woman named Margaret eight hours before being called to duty in Rhode Island. Caldwell, who family and friends called Todd, worked as a senior retirement services specialist for Putnam Investments in Norwood.

A graduate of Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, he had studied history and always admired the military. He joined the National Guard five years ago, and with the others in the 115th Military Police Company, left for training in New York in February. His company arrived in Kuwait in April and soon after moved into Iraq. Last week, they learned they would return home in December, family members said.

"He was looking forward to coming home and raising a family," said his father, Charles E. Caldwell, adding his son loved playing soccer and building model airplanes as a boy. "He was the type of guy who would do anything for you, jump into battle to protect you and always forgive you if you did something wrong. He had a very big heart."

Married with three young children, Camara, 40, served 21 years in the Guard, including time in the Iraq region during the 1991 Gulf War. The oldest of seven children, he grew up in Fall River and graduated from New Bedford High School, where he was known for his sharp wit and playing hockey.

In recent letters home, Camara told his family about his plans for when he returned. He wanted to take college courses and spend time with his children at Disney World. "He felt he was doing something important in Iraq, and he wanted to help the people there," Xavier said.

As for Aponte, a 35-year-old father of three, he was recovering yesterday at a field hospital in Iraq, National Guard officials said.

Reached at their home in Providence, his wife, Maria Aponte, didn't want to talk long on the phone. She wanted to leave the line open for her husband, a member of the Guard for 14 years who works for Electric Boat in North Kingstown.

"He's conscious," she said. "That's the most important thing right now."

David Abel can be reached at dabel (at) globe.com.
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