Today is the seventh anniversary of the death of Army Lt. Colonel Dominic “Rocky” Baragona, 42. At the time, Baragona was the highest ranking American soldier to die in the Iraq war. He was part of a convoy leaving Iraq when his Humvee was sideswiped by a contractor’s truck. They were an hour away from base and then a flight home. Only two hours earlier he had called his father, Dominic, Sr., on a satellite phone and said he was almost there.
His death hit home to me because Dominic wasn’t just another name in the newspaper. He was the first fatality of the war whom I knew personally. We had been classmates together at West Point. During plebe year we both served in Company A-3 and lived in the same barracks. We shared a few traits, having been born two months apart in Ohio and each having a father who was a big fan of Cleveland Indians ballplayer Rocky Colavito. What we didn’t share was an aptitude for academics. School came easily to Dom.
Dom was a quiet cadet. He didn’t fit my youthful idea of a soldier who was a gung ho “rah rah” type. However, soldiers like Dom led by example. He showed that quiet, steady leadership can be more effective than getting in someone’s face. He carried that trait throughout his military career where he was respected by superiors, peers and subordinates alike. He is still painfully missed by both friends and family.
To date, 4,397 American soldiers have died in Iraq. That number can be overwhelming to ponder. Sometimes when you focus on just one it brings the total into perspective.
Dom was born on June 14th, Flag Day. This year when you are putting your flag up, please think of all the men and women who serve under that flag for us.