LAWRENCE, Mass. – “My son has to be a symbol of peace,” Fernando Suárez del Solar told this reporter in an interview here March 9. His son Jesús, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was one of the first U.S. soldiers to die in the invasion of Iraq.

Suárez del Solar was speaking out against the war the day his son died, March 27, 2003. The next day there was a knock on his door informing him about the death of Jesús.

“They told me he was killed by enemy gunfire,” he said. “It wasn’t until later that a reporter told me my son died because of an unexploded cluster bomb that I learned the truth.” He started speaking out about the lies he was told and hasn’t stopped since.

Suárez del Solar charged President George W. Bush with having taken his son away by lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He said the administration is scared and that is why they are hiding the return of soldiers in body bags from the news media.

“The government is scared of the truth” being found out by the people, he said, “as they did in Vietnam.”

Suárez del Solar, a U.S. citizen since 1995, originally from the state of Toluca in Mexico, remembers a television news report where his son was interviewed in Iraq just four days before his death. “It’s a coincidence that, from the thousands of soldiers in Iraq, my son was interviewed.”

His son explained to the reporter that he wasn’t afraid of being there, but wanted to come home. His father said Jesús was sending a message that neither he nor his fellow soldiers wanted to be in Iraq.

“Having a son who was so brave, who desired to come back home and couldn’t, how could I not fight so that his ‘brothers,’ as he called them, can return home” alive, he explained.

“The ordinary soldier cannot speak out against the war or they can be punished,” he said. “But I have spoken with many soldiers in Iraq and in the U.S. and they have thanked me, saying, ‘You are our voice.’”

He told the World there are many soldiers on active duty who oppose this war. “The soldier who loves the military service is opposed to this war because he feels this war was unnecessary. … They know that the army’s purpose is defense and not occupation and murder. Unfortunately, this occupation has caused the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis and hundreds of innocent Americans.”

In Vietnam less than 400 U.S. soldiers were killed in the first three years while in Iraq there have been more than 550 in less than a year.

Suarez del Solar said that just as Bush lied about the reasons for the war and just as the military lied when they told him his son was a victim of “enemy fire,” U.S. youth are lied to when military recruiters go to their schools.

“I am very much focused on the youth community, especially Hispanic youth. I don’t want them to be fooled by dreams of exaggerated amounts of money for education” promised by military recruiters who “don’t lie, but don’t tell the whole truth.”

There are many conditions attached to those monies and many young men and women who joined the armed services in hope of getting funds for later continuing their education never get any.

Suárez del Solar continued, “I ask at the beginning how many are thinking of joining the military. Five or six hands go up. When I finish talking I ask, ‘What are you thinking now?’ At least half of them say they aren’t going and the rest say they need to think about it.

“It’s incredible how they listen to the story about my son. They gain knowledge about a reality they knew nothing about.”

Suárez del Solar is not happy with young people just knowing what is happening. “I invite them to take action. It is important for them to take concrete actions because they are the up and coming generation,” he said, urging students to demonstrate against the occupation and to “join together and organize” against military recruitment in high schools.

But the youth of the U.S. are not the only ones he is concerned about. When Suarez del Solar visited Iraq last December as part of a delegation of veterans and family members of soldiers, he visited hospitals. “I saw the conditions in the hospitals, especially the children’s hospitals. Children are dying from maladies that are 100 percent controllable here in the U.S. – diarrhea, respiratory problems. These illnesses, which can be cured here for $20 to $30, kill children there. The children suffer from typhoid because of the contamination of the water supply. A baby girl that I took in my arms died two days later. We cannot wait for the Bush administration to send the help he promised a while ago.”

Suárez del Solar promised “the mothers and the doctors” at the hospital that he would work to send medications for the children of Iraq. This way “we can make friends among the Iraqi people, instead of enemies like Bush is doing.”

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