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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, April 7, 2003

Matas await return of body

after son's death confirmed

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., April 7, 2003 -- Family and friends have been offering their support to a Pecos family who were told on Friday that their son was one of seven members of a Fort Bliss maintenance company confirmed dead in Iraq.

"They've had phone calls and have been surrounded by family and friends, which helps," said Javier Contreras, a spokesman for the Johnny Villareal Mata family.

The family learned on Friday following DNA testing that the 35-year-old Mata was one of the seven soldiers reported missing on March 23 in Iraq whose bodies had been found by U.S. troops in the 10 days following their disappearance.

Contreras is a cousin of Mata, who was a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer and a 1986 Pecos High School graduate. He was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company that was ambushed in Iraq after making a wrong turn in the desert. Two others were confirmed dead on March 24 and five others were confirmed captured after their pictures were shown on Iraqi television.

"Up until last Friday we still had hope," said Contreras, who traveled with other family members to El Paso this weekend to meet with government officials.

"It's hard, it's something that nobody wants to hear and they're just trying to cope with it," he said.

Mata's body was flown back to the United States over the weekend, and Contreras said that officers at Fort Bliss had first told the family that it might be about three days before his body could be sent home. "But I spoke to his dad while we were in El Paso and he said they had told him up that it would be from seven to 10 days before they can bring him home," he said.

Mata's body is currently at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and funeral arrangements will be made when the body is released to the family.

"They haven't made any plans yet, we don't know yet when we'll do that," said Contreras. "He is in the United States, but we don't know when they'll let us bring him home and then the family will decide when the funeral will be," said Contreras.

Eight soldiers were reported missing in action following the March 23 firefight with Iraqi troops. On Tuesday, one of those eight, Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, was rescued from an Iraqi hospital.

At the same time reports came in on the rescue of Pvt. Lynch, the Matas and families of others missing also heard that 11 bodies - at least some believed to be American - had been found during the rescue. And there was hope since the military acted quickly to save Lynch, and could do so again.

Lynch, who has undergone spinal surgery since her rescue, had another surgery Sunday to clean wounds. Her family flew to Germany on Saturday and has now had a total of three visits with her, said Marie Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. She is described as being in good spirits, and she has been eating apple sauce - along with plenty of fruit juice.

Meanwhile, another 507th Maintenance Company soldier, Sgt. Curtis P. Campbell waved from his stretcher Sunday as he was hoisted from an Air Force C-9 jet transport at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso and carried to a waiting ambulance that transported him to nearby Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Shortly after his arrival at the military hospital, he had a private reunion with his wife, Trenesha, and their two children, Jalen Heygood, 8, and Jada Campbell, 5.

Campbell, 27, an Army supply specialist and native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was one of four wounded 507th Maintenance Company soldiers who were rescued by the Marines after the firefight at the Euphrates River near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq on March 23. He suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.

Along with the nine 507th Maintenance Company soldiers who were killed, Marines died in attempts to rescue the Fort Bliss soldiers, who fought their attackers with M-16 rifles. Another U.S. Army soldier from the 3rd Infantry Division also died in the ambush.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Clean-up crews hit three sites in Keep Pecos Beautiful effort

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., April 7, 2003 -- Seven truckloads of trash were removed from area streets on Saturday by Pecos' Keep Pecos Beautiful program, during the annual 'Don't Mess with Texas Trash - Off' campaign.

Coordinator Michael Benavides said that his participants did a good job considering their numbers.

"I had five volunteers and 10 community service workers," Benavides said. "The all did a good job. They worked really hard. Councilman (Gerald) Tellez and his wife and Slim (Bub Ewbank) also helped."

Though he was pleased with Saturday's turnout, Benavides hopes that during the next Keep Pecos Beautiful clean-up there will be more volunteers.

The group focused three specific areas in town this weekend, which were the area across from Wal-Mart, the area next to the Pecos Farm Labor housing on West County Road and the area next to the Pecos Nursing Home off Daggett Street.

"In the future I hope to have a big volunteer turnout because of the projects I have in mind," Benavides said. "They are projects of cutting grass and doing peoples yards for free for those who can not do it themselves."

He added that if anyone had old lawn mowers and gas weed eaters that they would like to donate, they could call Benavides.

"The landfill will hopefully open up at the end of May and we can also do ally clean ups," said Benavides, referring to the city's new landfill trench.

The next Keep Pecos Beautiful clean-up is scheduled for Saturday, June 21, a week before Night in Old Pecos, Benavides added.

Health Fair attracts over 1,000 to hospital

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., April 7, 2003 -- The Reeves County Health Fair attracted over 1,000 people on Saturday to Reeves County Hospital, to undergo health tests and get heath-related information as part of the 16th annual event.

"It was a very successful health fair," said Nancy Ontiveros, Reeves County Hospital Director of Special Programs and one of the organizers of the fair, which was held for seven hours at sites throughout the hospital.

Ontiveros said that there were a lot of new out of town vendors that were very impressed with the local health fair.

"They said that they had been to other health fairs and had not received the kind of response they had here," said Ontiveros.

She said that a total count hasn't been done, but that there were over 1,000 people who attended the weekend event.

"We did more blood work than we have had in so many years," said Ontiveros.

For people who returned "panic values," abnormal blood counts, the results will be mailed out later this week. "We encourage them to take the results to their doctor right away," said Ontiveros.

Dr. Russell Subia's booth, which was offering free eye exams and free cataract and glaucoma screenings, was a really popular booth, according to Ontiveros, while Dr. Oladele Olusanya was offering a lot of valuable information, which drew a large crowd to his booth.

"His booth and (Rural Health Clinic physician's assistant Michelle) Cser's booth were busy at all times," said Ontiveros.

Urinalysis testing was also busy on Saturday, while the booth set up by Bessie Haynes Elementary was also popular on Saturday. "Everybody wanted to find out at the Bessie Haynes booth, what they could donate to the soldiers at war," said Ontiveros. "Everybody also wanted to sign the State Guard Banner that will be sent to the soldiers this week."

Ontiveros said that individuals had the opportunity to sign the banner and send special messages to soldiers in the war.

"It was a wonderful event and it's all thanks to the volunteers and exhibitors at the health fair," she added.

Ontiveros did say that the organizers had received a lot of suggestions on how to expedite services in many areas, and that they are taking them into consideration when the group meets to discuss this year's fair and make plans for next year's event.

"If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on how to improve the health fair next year, we welcome them, because we want everyone to remember that this is their health fair," she said.

The pancake breakfast was a big success and fun this year. "They were serving red pancakes and everyone really enjoyed that," he said.

Lunch was also a popular event, with the menu changing from barbecue to a choice of hamburgers or hot dogs.

"That was really popular because they had a choice and some had both a hamburger and hot dog," said Ontiveros. "We had been serving barbecue for the past 15 years and are considering the same menu from this year for next year."

Smiley Gamboa was a big winner Saturday, during the door prize giveaways. He won a bicycle. "A lot of the door prizes have already been claimed, but there are still a few that haven't," said Ontiveros.

Ontiveros said that if anybody is still hanging on to a ticket, to check the door at the Reeves County Hospital, where the door prize winners would be listed.

Plate sale benefit to aid injured boy scheduled Friday

PECOS, Mon., April 7, 2003 -- An enchilada plate sale will be held from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., Friday at Abundant Life Church, 1201 S. Ash St.

Proceeds will benefit Michael Rodriguez Valenzuela, the four-year-old son of Esmeralda Rodriguez Valenzuela, a former Pecos native, and Michael Valenzuela, who was in an accident March 9, and suffered severe head trauma and underwent emergency brain surgery.

He is still hospitalized at Texas Tech UMC in Lubbock.

He is the grandson of Eva P. Rodriguez and the late Juan Rodriguez of Pecos and has many aunts and uncles that live in Pecos. He is the nephew of fallen Task Force Officer Jaime P. Rodriguez.

To place an order on Friday, call 528-6916; 425-1870 or 448-6916.


PECOS, Mon., April 7, 2003 -- High Sunday 78. Low this morning 46. Forecast for Tonight: Cooler and clear. Lows in the mid 30s. NE winds 10 to 20 mph. Tues.: Sunny. Highs in the lower 60s. NE winds 15 to 25 Mph. Tues. night: Clear. Lows in the lower 30s. Wed.: Sunny. Highs in the lower 70s. Thurs.: Clear. Lows in the upper 30s. Highs in the mid 70s.


Tommy Morales and Manuel Tarin

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