By Tony Parra
One American soldier in Iraq wanted to get back the hometown feeling, and Portales residents are putting together of package to rekindle the Portales hometown feeling for him.
Sgt. Ernie Aguilar of the Medical Section of the 133rd Engineer Combat Battalion is currently in Iraq this Thanksgiving. Aguilar provides medical care and preventative health services to troops of the Battalion.
Aguilar graduated from Portales High School in 1979 and served on the Emergency Transport System and as a firefighter for the Portales Fire Department from 1983 to 1987.
Aguilar sent an e-mail to his second cousin Joan Martinez-Terry, Portales’ city clerk, in an attempt to grasp some feeling of home during his tumultuous time in Iraq. Martinez-Terry said Aguilar was born in Portales.
“I would like to fly a New Mexico state flag and a city flag, if you have one,” Aguilar said in the Nov. 12 e-mail sent to Martinez-Terry. “The soldiers often seek connections with people and places back home to help offset the many miles between us and some do that by flying flags.”
She said Aguilar grew up with his cousin Tonie Watson and they were raised by their grandparents, Paul and Mary Aguilar. Paul passed away in the late 80s and Mary died in February. At that time he said he felt he had lost a big part of his connection to Portales.
“I often think of Portales,” Aguilar said in the e-mail, “and I miss it very much. My grandmother, Mary Aguilar, who was my main connection with Portales, has since passed. And I felt that I would no longer think of my home town. But the hardships and stresses of war have caused me to revisit my ties to my one and only real home.”
Watson said even though they were cousins, they considered each other to be brother and sister. She said they were born two months apart and from birth they were inseparable.
“He’s a wonderful guy,” Watson said. “He’s a really sweet and nice guy. You never see him lose his temper. He’s a very optimistic person even now in times like these.”
Martinez-Terry said Aguilar moved away to Maine in 1987, where his wife and five boys currently live.
Aguilar wanted to tell those in the community who knew him that he is doing fine. He talked about the tough times in Iraq.
“You may be wondering how I am doing,” Aguilar said in the e-mail sent on Nov. 12. “My reply to that would be (that I am) fine, considering where I am. The city carries the deep scars of the armed conflicts, to include the current one, it remains a bustling hub of commerce and cultural diversity.
“Lately, the fighting between insurgent forces has increased. It is combat in every sense of the word. Peace for the people here is distant, but not unattainable and I am proud to be able to do my part to help them reach that peace.”
Portales residents are sending Aguilar a package with two New Mexico state flags, notes from his family, Portales pins and a Portales firefighter patch.
“The goal is to give him that hometown feeling,” Martinez-Terry said about the package. “He has not been forgotten. I’m proud of my cousin and pray for him and his family and pray that God is watching over him.”
The firefighters currently wear the patch they will be sending, which is a patch Aguilar designed, according to Portales Firefighter Department Fire Chief Jesse Mowrer. Mowrer said he worked with Aguilar for two years at the fire department.
“I hear from him every once in a while,” Mowrer said. “I am proud of him. I feel the troops are being taken good care of.”
Mowrer said he wanted to thank those who are in Iraq serving the United States armed forces on Thanksgiving Day.
On this Thanksgiving Day, Ernie Aguliar who will not be able to spend the time with his family. It may have been 17 years since Ernie Aguilar called Portales home, but it’s still a place he calls home.
“I have been to many places in the U.S. and abroad since I left in 1987 and I have tried to call some of them home,” Ernie Aguilar said in the e-mail. “Some have more water. Some have more snow, but none of them have my heart, which is and always will be, in Portales.”