BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The mother of a soldier whose body was found mutilated in Iraq sobbed with her cheek against his sealed, flag-shrouded coffin Tuesday, looking at the crucifix above it and asking repeatedly in Spanish, "Why? ... Why my son?"
Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, was one of two 101st Airborne Division soldiers whose booby-trapped remains were found June 19, three days after they disappeared following an insurgent attack. He was to be buried Wednesday.
"You were so young," said Maria Vasquez, a 50-year-old Mexican immigrant. "My little boy."
The public was allowed to pay respects Tuesday. Uniformed veterans, public officials and others streamed into the convention center where the coffin was displayed.
David Brown, a 48-year-old Army veteran, gave Vasquez an American flag and a card saying: "For evil to prevail, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing."
The military said explosive experts had to dismantle three roadside bombs before reaching the bodies of Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker of Madras, Ore. A U.S. military officer said last week that one and possibly both soldiers had been tortured and beheaded.
Menchaca's mother has declined to hear the Army's updates on exactly how her son died, said Rachel Ayala, a family spokeswoman.
"She doesn't want to know," Ayala said.