“Every Day I Think of Them”
November 10, 2008
“I was a young man with a GED and my first child, Brandon, looking for employment during the day and hanging out in the streets during the nights, until one day shots rang out in the dark, almost hitting me,” said Malave. “I was thinking of my son that night and I said to myself, if I’m going to get shot, I should join the military.”
Malave, 31, joined the New York Army National Guard in 2000, hoping for a better life.
Then came Sept. 11.
“I knew that it was time to do what I signed up for, but this time around it was personal and emotional,” he said. “They hit my city, my state, my country with a big blow and it was my turn.”
While defending his city and his nation, Malave fell in love with a woman named Xinmia Maldonado (above, with Malave). She had a 9-year-old son, and in 2003 she and Malave were expecting their first child together. Then came the call: “Pack your bags, you’re going to Iraq.”
He got down on one knee and proposed. She said yes, and a week later they were married. Two weeks later, Malave was in Baghdad during some of the heaviest fighting. His mission with the 89th Brigade, 759th Military Police was to train the Iraqi police force.
Last year, Malave was training at Camp Smith in Westchester County when he bumped into a couple of buddies he served with in Iraq – Sgt. Andrew Seabrooks, of Queens, and Spc. Deon Taylor, of the Bronx.
They all volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan.
“We all saw one another throughout the training and discussed many topics – one of them was not dying in combat and we all knew it would not happen to us,” he said.
Malave saw Seabrooks (right) on the battlefield from time to time. He even recommended Malave for a promotion.
“I saw him on June 19th at a police station in Kandahar where both our teams stopped to do a battle handoff,” Malave said. “We stood there for 45 minutes talking and laughing about good times.”
Two days later, Seabrooks, 36, was killed by a roadside bomb along with two other New York National Guard soldiers, Spc. Anthony Mangano, 36, of Greenlawn, Long Island, and Sgt. Nelson Rodriguez-Ramirez, 22, of Revere, Mass.
Three months later, Malave got promoted while home on leave.
“That night quietly in my bathroom, I thanked Seabrooks for his recommendation and shed tears again for my friend – who even in death helped me out,” Malave said.
Just weeks after Malave returned to the battlefield, Taylor (left) was killed.
A 31-year-old undercover cop in Brooklyn, Taylor was hit by an IED in western Afghanistan on Oct. 22
“Every day I think of them and their families going through their hurt and pain,” he said.
More than 1,500 members of the New York National Guard are currently serving a one-year deployment in Afghanistan.