Marine with local ties killed in Iraq

Friday, December 10, 2004

On Thanksgiving Day, Marine Cpl. Zachary "Zak" Kolda, from a computer somewhere in Iraq, sent the following message to a family Web site:

"happy thanksgiving all. hopefully tonight i can send arleen a short vid [video] of me sending holiday greetings. of course thanksgiving here isn't perfect, but it definitely allowed me to reflect on the important things for which i am truly thankful:

"I have a wonderful loving family.

"I am healthy and strong (relatively).

"I have the honor of defending the greatest nation ever created by man.

"I get to stand next to men who represent the finest qualities that nation holds dear.

"I am married to the most beautiful (mind, body and spirit) person I have ever known.

"I can still smile.

"I am graced by god's comfort and protection always.

"love you guys. be thankful. i haven't had more than 10 hours off (including sleep time) in a month and I have found much to be thankful for."

Kolda, 23, was killed in action six days later, on Dec. 1, the "result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq," according to the United States Department of Defense.

Kolda was the nephew of Dr. Mike Kolda, the emergency room director at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

The Marine reservist was just shy of getting a degree in international business from the University of Texas when he was called to duty. He then married his high school sweetheart, Arleen.

'He never gave up'

According to an article in the Austin American Statesman, Zak Kolda dreamed of returning to his wife, a radiology technician who had been working overtime at the hospital to fill the void left by her new husband not being there.

The Marine reservists -- and Zak Kolda's best friends -- told the newspaper he held onto that dream even as he was dying.

"He was fighting it," Sgt. David Cantu told the Statesman. "He never gave up on anything ... never showed an ounce of doubt."

According to the Web site, which "adopted" the First Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Kolda was among many Marines who protected the Haditha Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in Iraq. The dam on the Euphrates River, Lt. James Crabtree wrote on the Web site, provides electricity to nearly one-third of Iraq.

The battalion held a memorial service at dawn atop the dam.

Zak's Cape Girardeau uncle has shared his nephew's Thanksgiving message with many friends. The message has circulated around Cape Girardeau.

"We've lost someone special," he said. "Our first choice would be to have him back. But he left us a gift with that Thanksgiving message. That message was humbling and inspiring, and I wanted to share it with other people."

Kolda's funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.


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