by Alex Martinez
he saved my life
Carlo Eugenio was my enemy, my friend, and part of who I am
The first words spoken to me by Carlo Eugenio were “Why are you acting so tough, little man?” It’s a strange way to begin any friendship, especially one that changes how you view the world. Carlo never had a problem telling anyone exactly what he thought. The same trait that initially pushed me away would lead me to view this man as a pillar of truth and the single most exciting person I have had the pleasure to meet.
Unfortunately, if you haven’t meet met Carlo, it’s too late. Sgt. Carlo F. Eugenio died on Nov. 29 2011 In Bagram, Afghanistan. Carlo was the driver of an Armored NATO bus that was struck by a vehicle carrying more than 1,500 pounds of explosives. Carlo and 16 other people, including 11 Americans, and four Afghanis, were killed that day. Responsibility for the attack was taken by the Taliban.
Carlo was a Chaffey student, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, and my friend. Carlo got me into, and fortunately out of, many situations that were both terrifying and more fun than I had experienced. Carlo would never let me get away with doing anything less than my best in any task or adventure we would undertake. Carlo got me to do many things I “knew” that couldn’t do.
My comfort zone was not a place in which Carlo would let me stay. Every interaction with Carlo was an experience, from him showing what Pho was to screaming like Banshees riding around Pismo Beach until sunrise. If Carlo invited you somewhere, you went. It would definitley be more exciting than anything you could do otherwise.
I found out that Carlo was taken from us via Facebook. I wished for that piece of information to be wrong more than anything I had ever hoped for in my life before or since. My wish is still unfulfilled.
His funeral was single saddest experience I have been through. I never thought that anything could possibly happen to Carlo. He seemed invincible. It is an odd thing to see some of the strongest men you know weep like babies. Especially through tears of my own.As depressed as I was, I couldn’t help but feel that at least Carlo got the tribute he deserved. On the police-escorted trip from Saint Peter and Saint Paul Parish in Alta Loma to the Cemetery in Riverside, there was a fire engine and a crowd of people on every freeway overpass. He got the full military burial with a 21-gun salute.
I am sad, and I will never be the same. That is as true today as it was one year ago. I know that Carlo would not let me have a pity party for myself. When I’m about to do something lazy or foolish, I can hear his voice in the back of my head telling me that I am better than that. As sad as I am about his absence from my life, I realize that I am a much better person for having known him. I can live with the pain of his death because of the strength he gave me in life.
Who in your life makes you happy? Do you have true friends, or just the fair-weather variety? What are you doing in your life that is actually good for you and productive? I asked myself these questions after Carlo’s passing and it caused me to reevaluate my life. I can’t have him see me live a life I’m not excited to live. It took his death to get me to start living my life.
Don’t wait to start yours. All the people you care about won’t be there forever. Show them you love them. Want a better life? Change it. You are the only person with the power to do it.