By Mike Linn
The capture of Saddam Hussein won’t bring back Kem Bales’ energetic country boy known for his confidence and charm. And it doesn’t make the pain of losing a son to the war in Iraq any easier.
But it does bring to fruition everything U.S. Marine Chad Eric Bales fought for and believed in, Kem said, and for that the Muleshoe resident was elated when he heard of Hussein’s capture early Sunday morning.
“I think it’s a great day, I really do,” Kem said on Sunday afternoon. “I know Chad would have been so proud …”
Chad, a U.S. Marine who spent many summers in Muleshoe with his father, died in a non-combat accident in Iraq on April 3 when his convoy wrecked into another during a sandstorm. Kem said the convoy in front of his son’s slid off course and hit a sand dune, resulting in a wreck that killed Chad instantly.
Kem, sporting a United States Marine Corp. hat on Sunday, said Hussein is directly responsible for the death of his son, and he is hoping the capture eases tensions between U.S. military forces and the residents of Iraq.
“I still miss Chad a lot,” Kem said. “He always had a happy, easy-go-lucky attitude.”
Chad’s grandmother Gail Wilcox, also of Muleshoe, experienced mixed emotions when asked about Hussein’s capture Sunday evening.
“Do you want to make me cry?” the 66-year-old Wilcox said. “It wasn’t worth losing my grandson for. This war has touched me in a way that I will never look at the world like I used to.”
Wilcox noted her grandson’s dedication to the war efforts, his belief that what he was fighting for was right and American.
Wilcox recalled the angriest she’d ever seen Chad. It was Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew two airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City, killing almost 3,000 Americans.
“Chad told me on that day: ‘I didn’t know them by name and I didn’t know them by sight, but they were my family,’” Wilcox said.
Chad had many friends in Muleshoe, where he attended Muleshoe High School his junior year (1999-2000) and lived nearly every summer since his second birthday, his father said. On April 13 more than 1,000 Muleshoe residents memorialized Chad at the Muleshoe high’s football stadium.
More than eight months after his death, one of Chad’s goals as a Marine — the capture of Hussein — came true.
“If Chad were there he would have been dancing in the streets,” Wilcox said.