SAN DIEGO — Four years ago, March 27, 2003, Jesus Alberto Suarez, 20, became one of the first casualties of the invasion of Iraq. Since then, his father, Fernando Suarez del Solar, has dedicated himself to protesting the war and bringing it to an end, declaring “Bush killed my son. I blame him.”
On March 27 this year, Suarez began a two-day fast outside the Federal Building here, in remembrance of the two hours his son, a Marine in Iraq, bled to death while waiting for medical assistance after stepping on a cluster bomb fragment. Fernando said, “I cannot bleed for two hours but I can fast for two days in order to protest the deaths of our young soldiers and marines as well as those of innocent Iraqi children. I also fast to oppose the sending of more U.S. troops.”
Interviewed during the fast, Suarez told the World his son was raised in an activist family in Tijuana, Mexico, where Fernando, who now lives in San Diego, worked for the rights of immigrants and Mexico’s working poor. When Jesus was aggressively recruited by the U.S. military at the age of 17, he was developing a strong sense of social justice and a commitment to serve, with an interest in studying law to defend the rights of those most vulnerable, his father said.
Suarez said he saw changes in his son over his short time in the military, watching a formerly happy and caring young man become arrogant and develop a sense of superiority from military training. At the same time, the father said he struggled to help Jesus overcome feelings of guilt over his participation in violence against innocent people.
Jesus’ last letter indicated that he was finding his way and still held to his humanity, Suarez said. Jesus wrote that he was proud to serve the U.S. as a Marine, but felt he and his fellow soldiers were being used and would discourage anyone from joining this effort. Fernando said he wanted his son’s message to reach young people: that it is ok to want to serve this country, but to serve through social and community service, with books and education.
During the two-day fast Suarez was joined by community members for vigils and rallies. Janie Jordan, a drug counselor with Project Star, said she came “to help expose the big lie.” Rio Mezta, who participated in the fast along with Suarez, said she greatly admires his efforts to end the war and was there in support. Jeeni Criscenzo, the 2006 Democratic candidate for Congress from north San Diego County, also extended her support to Suarez during the fast.
More information about Fernando Suarez del Solar and his Guerrero Azteca Peace Project is available at , or by phone: (760) 746-4568.
In an earlier version of this story Mezta was incorrectly quoted as connecting the war protest to her work against corporate gentrification of her neighborhood. We regret the error.