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Woman loses father, then husband in Iraq

/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman whose father died in Iraq last year suffered another tragedy when her husband was killed in a helicopter crash in Baghdad last week.

The latest bad news came just days after Tabitha Bonilla and Army Capt. Orlando A. Bonilla had talked about his anticipated return home in early March.

“He told me he was going to fly a couple more missions before he came home,” Tabitha Bonilla, 23, said Monday night from her mother’s home in North Carolina. “I was going to welcome him home, since I didn’t get to welcome my dad home.”

She described her 27-year-old husband, a pilot from Killeen, as “just a wonderful, kindhearted, caring, gentle person.”

Her mechanic father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Henry A. Bacon, 45, died last February when he was hit by one vehicle while making repairs on another in Iraq. Bacon, who joined the Army in 1982, had delayed his retirement to serve in the war, relatives said.

Bacon’s death delayed his son-in-law’s deployment to Iraq, but only for a few months.

“He treated my dad as though he were his dad,” Keith Bacon, 18, said of his brother-in-law. “He wanted to be here for us, but he said he wanted to do his job. ... Even though he was going through a troubling time, he was needing to go over there. You know how a military man is.”

Bonilla, who had been stationed at Fort Hood, died along with a second pilot in a helicopter crash Friday near Baghdad. He was one of 18 Texans killed in Iraq in January, surpassing the state’s previous worst toll for a month.

Orlando Bonilla was attending the University of Texas at Austin and waiting to get his Army commission when he took a part-time job at a Target store in 1999. That is where he met his future wife, a fellow Target employee whose father was also stationed at Fort Hood.

Bonilla’s “easy-going, sweet, gentlemanly” personality attracted Tabitha Bacon to him, she said. He told her he had decided in high school that he wanted to be an Army pilot.

She said she supported her father and husband no matter what, and did not pressure her husband to stay home.

“I told him that my biggest regret would be that if he left too and wouldn’t come back,” Tabitha Bonilla said of her husband. “But I also knew that was his stupid job.

“It’s not stupid,” she added, through her tears, “but ... I’m just very hurt.”