Since Dean Nelson ended with a shameless plug yesterday, so shall I. It’s kind of long, but I surely would appreciate it if you’d read my cover story this week about 20-year-old John Jodka Jr., of Encinitas, one of seven Marines – plus a Navy corpsman – charged with murdering an Iraqi civilian and then attempting to cover up the slaying.

My intent with this story was to give Jodka a human face, and to let his parents tell his story.

I don’t know if Jodka – his parents call him J.J. – is guilty as charged or not. One of the experts I interviewed said a case like this doesn’t get to court-martial without some pretty compelling evidence.

What I do know is that, regardless of whether he helped execute Hashim Ibrahim Awad that morning, Jodka would never have found himself facing life in prison if he hadn’t gone to fight our president’s unjustifiable, unnecessary, unforgivable war. Yes, I know – that’s stating the obvious. What I mean is that he – not to mention is family – is a casualty of war.

His mom told me she always thought he’d become a teacher or a writer. I don’t know. Maybe Jodka had his own plan for his future. Maybe he’d have gone on to do something extraordinary. Maybe he’d have been very ordinary. Maybe a wife and kids. Who knows.

Periodically I report the number of American service members killed so far in Iraq. The number is up to 2,738. Thankfully, Jodka didn’t become one of them in his four and a half months over there. But his life may have been ruined just the same – because he was young and impressionable and patriotic. He believed what Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld told him. Poor kid.


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