Victims' Rights Caucus


Mr. Speaker, ``I don't do it for the money, I don't do it for the glory. Providing for our future is my responsibility. I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend has been too strong. I just work straight through the holidays and sometimes all night long. You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door. I am solid, I am steady, I am true down to the core.''

This is taken from Toby Keith's ``American Soldier.'' And, Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of a young American Marine from a tranquil town in southeast Texas of approximately 34,000 people, Marine Lance Corporal Wesley Joel Canning, who died valiantly serving our country and our Nation in Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Lance Corporal Canning, in just 21 short years, had already exhibited a lifetime of courage and boldness. He was killed in combat on November 10, 2004, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, during the successful American offensive against the insurgent enemy in Fallujah.

He was a native of Friendswood, Texas. Wes, as he was called by his friends and family, graduated from Friendswood High School in 2002 and left for boot camp in July, just 2 months after his graduation. Resolute about becoming a Marine since his junior year, he had approached his parents with the idea. His father, Joe Canning, recalls their hesitations: ``He decided he wanted to become a Marine,'' his father said. ``Spend 20 years in the service and pursue a career in the criminal justice system. I tried my best to talk him out of it, telling him to go and get a good education, but he was hooked on becoming a Marine. And after doing everything I asked him to do, talking to recruiters from the other branches of service and friends and relatives who had served, he seemed more convinced than ever that the Marines was absolutely the right thing for him to do.'' In the end, ``His mom and I gave him our blessing.''

The devastating terrorist attack on September 11, which occurred before he ever graduated from high school, further fueled this desire. According to his mother, Jo Ellen Canning, ``9/11 didn't deter his efforts. He wanted all the more to go and protect his country.''

He graduated from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He steadfastly pursued a post that would allow him to see action. Open for deployment in Iraq, he stayed at Camp Pendleton in California rather than accept another assignment.

In mid-March of 2003, with the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Lance Corporal Canning's wish came true. ``He went to the front lines at the beginning of the war. There was not much telephone contact, so we watched TV the whole time until he made it home,'' Mrs. Canning recounts. In a letter to his parents that month, he described going in with the initial push and penetrating Baghdad.

He then returned to Texas after completing his first of ultimately two tours he volunteered for in Iraq. He excitedly did two things that, as his dad told me, ``they advise the boys not to do.'' He trekked out to Lone Star Ford, bought a new little black pickup truck, so he could show his band of Marine brothers back at the base in North Carolina his proudly displayed bumper sticker, ``Don't Mess With Texas.'' He also wedded his sweetheart from Fort Collins, Chayla.

Married just 11 months, and only 11 months, he was once again deployed in September of 2004 to Iraq, where he was looking forward to participating in the training of Iraqi soldiers and police. Now he is a husband, a family man, and he decided to serve 4 years, go back to school, and build a life with his new bride, Chayla, who, in spite of the obvious strain, loved being a Marine wife. She said, ``Wes wanted to protect our family so our little brothers wouldn't have to. He was very protective of everybody.''

Two months after being de