Two and a half years ago, on a cool sunny morning in Haditha, Iraq, he was just another leatherneck, part of the time-honored hoo-rah fraternity. Then, on a routine resupply mission, a roadside bomb exploded beneath a vehicle in his convoy, killing one member of Dela Cruz's Kilo Company and injuring two others.
Dela Cruz escaped physical harm. But what happened on the morning of November 19, 2005, and what Dela Cruz would later say about it, would hurt him in every other way—even as it would help turn Haditha into a household name as notorious and controversial as Abu Ghraib.
Today, Dela Cruz's testimony underlies accusations that what occurred that morning—the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians, including babies, women, and elderly people, by a squad of marines—was a revenge-driven massacre. His words form the basis of a homicide charge against his squad leader and friend, Frank Wuterich, a man Dela Cruz continues to call "a great marine."