Soldier honored for supreme sacrifice
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - December 23, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - “I love my job more than anything else.”

This was the reply of Pfc. Ian Paquit to his elder sister Irene when she discouraged him from rejoining the soldiers involved in the Zamboanga siege operations last September.

Ian was slightly wounded and was recovering in the hospital when he made the phone call to his worried 23-year-old sister.

“When he was wounded for the first time, we asked him not to return (to the conflict area). He called us to say that he has recovered and that he is returning to the battle zone,” Irene told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“Sabi ko sa kanya utang na loob huwag mo na gawin yun kasi ayaw kong maglibing sa iyo (I told him not to do that because I do not want to bury him),” she added.

Irene’s words, however, were not enough to dissuade Ian, who was very determined to help restore peace in Zamboanga.

Unfortunately, the 21-year old soldier was not as lucky when he returned to the battle field. Ian was fatally wounded in his neck in one of the clashes between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.

Due to massive firepower from the rebels, Ian adjusted his position to provide cover fire for the repositioning government troops despite his vulnerability to enemy fire.

When she learned that her younger brother was in the intensive care unit, Irene, a call center agent, rushed to Zamboanga City without asking permission from her employers.

Ian died after a few days, ending a military career that lasted for three years.

“The hardest part was he is too young to die. We still have a lot of dreams for our family. Now, he is gone,” Irene said.

“Our family and even our barangay are proud of him despite the fact that we tried hard to prevent him from entering the military. But he insisted because it was his passion and he wanted to serve the people,” she added.

Ian’s sacrifice did not remain unrecognized as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) awarded him the Medal for Valor, the highest award given in the military.

The posthumous award cited Ian’s “conspicuous courage, gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.”

“Despite his injuries from a previous encounter, Private First Class Ian Paquit returned to ground zero in defense of our people in Zamboanga. His display of heroism and courage during the conduct of a coordinated attack to neutralize the enemy weakened their forces,” the award read.

Ian was among the 53 individuals feted by President Aquino during the AFP’s 78th anniversary last Dec. 20.

Ian’s father Eduardo said his son did not die in vain since he offered his life for others.

“I am proud that he saved many lives,” Eduardo said in Visayan dialect.

“Even if you (Ian) are now in heaven, your memories with remain with us, your family and your relatives,” he added.

Ian’s death did not affect the Paquit family’s view of military service. In fact, Ian’s younger brother, 16-year-old Ironel, is interested to enter the Philippine Military Academy so he can follow in the footsteps of his heroic brother.

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