LCpl. Craig Watson
(reprinted from MercuryNews.com, December 2, 2005)
Marine from southern Michigan dies in Iraq
UNION CITY, Mich. – A U.S. Marine and former athlete at Union City High School has been killed in Iraq, school officials said Friday.
Craig Watson, who graduated in 2003, died Thursday, Superintendent Martin Chard said. He said a family member told him Watson was killed by what the military calls an improvised explosive device, or IED, a roadside bomb made from several large artillery shells.
It was not immediately clear whether Watson was among the 10 Marines killed Thursday in Fallujah in an IED explosion, which also wounded 11.
Watson played on the football and wrestling teams at Union City. He had twin brothers, Brad and Kevin, who also attended the school.
Although he weighed only about 190 pounds, Watson wrestled in the heavyweight division and often went against opponents 30 to 40 pounds heavier, assistant coach Ed Sybesma said. Sometimes he beat them.
“He had to drink a lot of water so he could make weight,” Sybesma said. “He was a team player. He sacrificed for the team and also for his country.”
Sybesma, a Vietnam veteran, said he and Watson discussed their combat experiences when Watson returned from an earlier tour of duty in Iraq.
“The enemy we were fighting during the day looked like everybody else and at night they were the ones trying to kill you,” Sybesma said. “It’s the same thing over there (in Iraq).”
Watson believed in the U.S. mission in Iraq, Sybesma said. “He was anxious to go back. I know he was really proud to be a Marine.”
Students at Union City High had planned to send a Christmas care package to Watson, and the sixth-grade class had “adopted” him and was preparing to send letters, Sybesma said.
Eric Tundevole, the head football coach, said Watson was a typical American youth.
“He wasn’t perfect. He had faults, but he was a good boy,” Tundevole said. “He was sharp, but not the smartest. He was a good player, but not the greatest. But he obviously made the supreme sacrifice.”
Teachers in each of the school’s classes read a statement Friday morning announcing Watson’s death, Tundevole said.
Union City is located about 130 miles west of Detroit.