Monday, April 12, 2004

Big Island man killed
in Iraq made mark

STATESBORO, Ga. » The daughter of a Big Island man killed last month in an ambush in Iraq said her father wanted to help in the Iraqi reconstruction.

"He just wanted to help everybody," said Kristal Batalona, 22, a junior at Georgia Southern University.

Wesley Batalona, 48, was killed March 31 when a vehicle he was in was hit by rocket-propelled grenades in Fallujah. He and three other Americans were working for Moycock, N.C.-based Blackwater Security.

Their bodies were mutilated and burned, and two were hung from the framework of a bridge.

Kristal Batalona will return home to Paaulio, Hawaii, on Wednesday to join her family and attend services for her father.

"I know he wanted to make his mark," said Batalona, "and I believe he did."

She believes her father, a former Army ranger, put his life on the line for his country.

"He wouldn't have been over there if he didn't love America," she said.

Blackwater Security provides security training and guard services to customers around the world. While most of its employees had been required to complete a careful and tedious training, Wesley Batalona had been recognized as already having the skills needed to operate within the company successfully.

"I never thought that something would happen to him," she said.

Wesley Batalona had survived numerous missions for 20 years while serving in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, of the Army based at Fort Benning in Columbus. He retired in 1994 to Effingham County.

The family has since moved back to Hawaii, but Kristal chose to remain in Georgia to attend GSU in Statesboro.


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