ARDMORE, Okla. (AP) _ Judge Tom Walker first met Nachez Washalanta II when Washalanta came into Carter County District Court in trouble with the law again.
Walker, a brigadier general with the U.S. Army Reserve, said Friday he got to see Washalanta evolve into an admirable young man and a U.S. Marine.
``To me, Nachez Washalanta is an American hero,'' Walker said in a eulogy for Washalanta, who was killed earlier this month in Iraq. ``His life _ as short as it was _ is worthy of admiration and emulation.
``He could have chosen the easy path, and we might be here today because he OD'd (overdosed) on drugs or got shot by a police officer,'' Walker said. ``But rather he chose the hard road.''
Washalanta was one of four Marines killed Aug. 21 in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, according to a Department of Defense report. He was a member of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Before becoming a Marine private, Washalanta bounced from one odd job to another, including a stint with a circus. He then settled on becoming a Marine, a decision his foster brother, Marine Cpl. Justin Davis, said Washalanta cherished.
``... he was made for it. He was just a tough kid,'' Davis said. ``I'm not going to go into detail about his past record, but let's just say he had a tough life.''