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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, April 14, 2003

Pecos residents join family, friends
in final services for Johnny Mata



Staff Writers

PECOS, Mon., April 14, 2003 -- U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Johnny V. Mata was laid to rest on Saturday in a ceremony that brought out hundreds of Pecos residents, local law enforcement agencies and military officials to pay their final respects to the soldier who was killed as the result of a firefight with Iraqi troops last month.

Services were held Saturday afternoon at Santa Rosa Catholic Church, with military burial at Mt. Evergreen Cemetery. It followed a candlelight vigil and memorial service held for Mata on Friday night at Eagle Stadium.

"These are young men and women who say, `I have volunteered, and I have wanted to serve my country in this way,' " said Santa Rosa pastor Father Ben Flores during Saturday's service.

"We may ask ourselves what would drive anybody to go out there to be thrown into darkness in the prime of your life - at the noon hour. If you're looking for answers at the surface, you'll never understand," Flores said.

"Yes, there is such a thing as a good death," he said. "Death does not have to be our final failure, our unavoidable defeat."

Friends and family members sounded the same theme on Friday night, when they spoke during the candlelight vigil at Eagle Stadium, including his wife, Nancili Lie Mata, who said her husband, "has gone to a place with the Lord and it comforts me. I know he'll never leave me."

"I thank the Lord for so many blessings and letting me have Johnny for 16 years," she said, looking out onto the crowd holding lit candles in the darkened stadium. "I feel like Johnny brought angels for all around me, that's the way I feel about you."

She also told a story she had heard from one of Mata's aunts on how he wanted to be the President of the United States when he grew up, and added, "If Johnny was the president of the United States right now he would have made exactly the same decision President George Bush made. He saw the suffering of the children on TV didn't like it."

Mata's wife and children, Stephani and Eric, made the trip to Pecos early Friday morning with other family members, after Mata's body was flown from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to El Paso.

Several of those family members and friends who grew up with Mata in Pecos also spoke to the crowd.

"He and I had many battles on this field," said Mata's friend, Pecos High School baseball coach Elias Payan, who graduated a year before Mata. "Johnny was a 150-pound jalepino. He could really pack a wallop, and he did a heck of a job."

"I was blessed to have been a part of having Johnny in my life. I am honored to have called him my best friend," Payan said.

"Johnny gave up his life so we could hug and kiss our children and wives," he said. "Johnny doesn't have a tomorrow, but for what he did, all of us have a tomorrow."

"Johnny was my cousin, but he was also a good friend," said Javier Contreras. "I know in all our hearts, Johnny's a hero.

"I know Johnny's happy looking at us from up above," he said. "Thank you, Johnny, for your love, your courage and your service."

"He called me plenty of times when he was hurting or feeling bad and he's done the same thing for me," said Chuck Forrester, who served with Mata at Fort Carson, Colo., "I loved him as a brother, and he always wanted me to visit Pecos, but I never got the chance until now, under these tragic circumstances," he said. "Now I see this place, Pecos, is a wonderful town, and I'm proud of all you guys, and I'm glad you all could join us tonight."

City, county and school officials also read statements in honor of Mata.

"On Sept. 11, 2001, this country was attacked by a band of criminal terrorists," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo. "The President of the United States, George W. Bush, declared a vow to hunt down and kill every member and support of that group of terrorists. Our brother, our neighbor, our friend was on that hunt, and to the loss of family and friends he died on that hunt. Today we are here in his loving memory."

Jonathan Martinez performed the Lee Greenwood song, "God Bless the U.S.A.," while Austin Elementary teacher Patricia Matthews sang "America" to the crowd who raised their candles during the playing of both songs.

Mata's cousin, Freddy Contreras, also read a letter from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, which said, "America will forever be in debt to Johnny and his sacrifice."

Saturday's funeral service filled Santa Rosa to overflowing, and local residents lined the path of the funeral procession on Saturday from Santa Rosa to Mt. Evergreen.

Children and grown ups alike could be seen holding the American flag or a sign honoring the fallen hero during the procession to the soldier's final resting place.

Local law enforcement vehicles displaying the American flag on their right side as they led the fallen hero to the Santa Rosa Catholic Church were two young boys and their grandfather stood near the church holding an American flag in honor of Mata.

A little after an hour of the church service Mata was driven down Third Street and then south onto Eddy and through the center of town, where signs that read 'Thank you Johnny V. Mata' were displayed.

As the procession continued down Eddy and down to Mt. Evergreen Cemetery, people in their vehicles would pull into a parking lot and look as Mata, his family and friends followed behind one another, some again displaying their American flags in honor of the fallen hero.

As the people gathered at the cemetery, they watched as the flag that lain over Mata's casket was folded tightly and presented to his wife. As the second flag was being presented to Mata's mother six soldiers fired a 12-gun salute in honor of the fallen hero.

Cousins Javier and Freddy Contreras recited poems honoring their cousin and fallen hero. A fellow Army soldier out of Hawaii also talked about Mata while stationed in Hawaii. The soldier talked about how Mata had trained him and many other men while there.

As the ceremony ended a final poem was read talking about how they would meet once again. At the end of the poem, Nancili Mata was handed a white dove, which she kissed and then released into the bright clear sky.

Mata was one of nine members of the 507th Maintenance Company out of Fort Bliss who were killed as a result of the firefight near Nasiriya, in southern Iraq. He was also honored on Friday during a ceremony in El Paso for the fort's fallen soldiers.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeremiah Saiz worked in the same office with Mata, a technical expert with the 507th. During Friday's ceremony, Saiz said Mata knew everything about the vehicles he worked on, from electrical systems to engine mechanics.

"Everyone wanted to be around him," Saiz said. "He was the most knowledgeable in his area of expertise."

At Friday's ceremony, which spilled over into two other locations at Fort Bliss that were equipped with video and audio feeds, about 5,000 people mourned Mata and the eight other soldiers from the 507th who were killed in the ambush.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Law limiting release of medical info taking effect

From Staff and Wire Reports
April 15, will be a little bit more than just tax day this year for Pecos citizens and anyone else around the country requiring medical attention in a hospital.

Tuesday marks the beginning of mandatory compliance with the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Millions of health providers across America will be required by the Department of Health and Human Services to comply with these new provisions which charge the medical industry with accountability for the sanctity of patients' medical information.

The rules, years in the making, prohibit disclosure, without patient permission, of information for reasons unrelated to health care. Violators face civil and criminal penalties that can mean up to $250,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.

"This is the biggest thing to hit the health care sector since Medicare," said Dr. Jeffrey N. Hausfeld, an ear, nose and throat doctor in the Washington area who has been advising his peers about the rules.

It is the first federal law that guarantees medical privacy. The rules were first written by the Clinton administration. The Bush administration allowed them to move ahead with some changes.

Locally, Reeves County Hospital District is participating in a program endorsed by the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals to receive the training, policies, procedures and other administrative documents required to safeguard patient privacy. Many of the changes will be transparent, but patients will still notice a number of differences during medical visits.

One of the most notable changes will be the Notice of Privacy Practices that the hospital district will be providing each of its patients. The notice informs patients of their rights under HIPAA regulations, the hospital's responsibilities to safeguard protected health information, and what can be done if a patient feels their privacy has been violated.

Officials with the hospital said incoming patients shouldn't be alarmed when asked to sign an acknowledgment regarding the Notice of Privacy - it is required by the law.

The rules bar doctors and hospitals from giving out patient information to third parties for marketing purposes or to employers, unless a patient specifically agrees.

Health care companies may not disclose information beyond what is minimally necessary to deliver care.

It is this last, broad requirement that is leading to adjustments in hospitals and doctor's offices, said Rick Campanelli, director of the Office for Civil Rights at Health and Human Services Department.

The law allows for "incidental" disclosures of information, but those covered by the rule are expected to put in place "reasonable safeguards" to protect people's private information.

The hospital district would face stiff fines if it violates the rules associated with HIPAA and is asking for assistance in the difficult transition of implementing new privacy policies.

In an emergency room, the large white boards, where patient names and medical

problems are listed, should be moved to areas out of public view.

In hospitals, patient charts should be turned to face the wall so people walking by cannot read them.

Anyone wanting to check on the condition of a friend, neighbor or family member will now be told that the information can't be released - it's the law.

For more information or to receive a copy of the hospital's Notice of Privacy Practices, call Lily Serrano at 447-3551, ext. 225.

Acceleration credit exam sign-ups due Tuesday

PECOS, Mon., April 14, 2003 -- Today and Tuesday are the final days to register children for credit for acceleration for grades 1-5 and Credit for Examination for grades 6-8 at the different Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD campuses.

Students in grades 1-5 need to meet some requirements and score 90 percent or above on a criterion referenced test for the grade level to be skipped in each of the following areas: language arts, math, science and social studies.

In grades 6-8 students must score 90 percent or above on a criterion referenced exam for acceleration for the applicable course.

Registration for the exams is now taking place at the different campuses and Tuesday is the deadline to register and students can do so at the counselors' office at the students designated school.

Test dates are May 13-16.


PECOS, Mon., April 14, 2003 -- High Sunday 94. Low this morning 56. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows near 60. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 80s. South winds 15 to 25 mph becoming southwest. Tuesday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the lower 50s. Wednesday: Mostly clear. Highs in the lower 80s. Thursday: Increasing clouds. Lows in the lower 50s. Highs in the lower 80s.


Tomasa Acosta, Osbaldo Aragon and Joe Bradley

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