[ WAR IN IRAQ ]
Spec. Jonell Ventura, 22, is an Abrams tank driver with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. It is not the first time the Waipahu High School graduate has been on a dangerous assignment, having served with peacekeeping forces in Kosovo in 2001. His father, Val, a Waipahu teacher, said, "We're very proud but worried, too."
isle family linked
Although the Venturas cannot
contact their son Jonell directly,
he is still in their thoughts
By Mary Adamski
Waipahu teacher Val Ventura and his wife, Elena, watched their younger son play baseball last night, but they admit being a little distracted thinking about his older brother in Iraq.
Spec. Jonell Ventura, 22, is an Abrams tank driver with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, in Baghdad. It's not the first time the 1999 Waipahu High School graduate has been on a dangerous assignment. He served with peacekeeping forces in Kosovo in 2001.
"I was elated to see Iraqi people greeting the American soldiers," said Val Ventura, a sixth-grade teacher at August Ahrens Elementary School.
He and Elena, a Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel employee, get e-mail messages daily from a B Company sergeant, but Jonell has not been in touch personally for more than a month. "They're not allowed for security reasons," Val Ventura said.
"The message today from the sergeant said, 'Don't worry about the infantry, they are trained and in great shape,'" Ventura said yesterday. "He wrote before there was sporadic shooting and they found pockets of resistance. Every day, they tell about casualties. ... No one has been killed, but someone was shot in the abdomen and another boy was hit in the eye with shrapnel. Thank God it wasn't my son. I told the sergeant that he must e-mail me every day.
"My son is not afraid, he is brave," he said. "We're very proud but worried, too."
Jonell's unit was in Kuwait the last time he wrote in February. "He said it was very hot in the daytime, then got down to 40 degrees at night. He complained that with 50 soldiers staying in one tent, he had to go outside by himself to listen to Hawaiian CDs. ... He said, 'If you don't hear anything, I'm OK.' If somebody comes to the dorm, that is when you worry."
He was promoted to specialist while in Kuwait.
"The whole congregation at the Assembly of God in Waipahu is praying for him," Val Ventura said. "I put all my trust in the Lord. I think the Lord has a plan for each of us."
He has shared photographs of his son with his sixth-graders, who have been writing letters to the soldier. "We laughed when we saw your picture holding a missal (sic) with one finger," wrote student Isel Marievic Barbra. "We are praying for you and the other soldiers. Be careful and don't get hurt."
Ventura said the family had hoped to be together when Val Jr. graduates from Waipahu High School in June. He has already passed the Army enlistment tests.
Val Ventura's oldest son, Sgt. Conie Obrero, is currently an Army recruiter in Fort Lewis, Wash., and "his passion as a soldier was what motivated his brothers to join," the father said.
Jonell Ventura worked at Kmart and took classes at Leeward Community College before entering the Army in 2000. He was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., before deployment to Iraq.
His father said: "We're so proud of him. We expect him to come home for a hero's welcome."
Hawaii military links and information