ShareThis Page
Home

Local family remembers man killed in Iraq

| Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004

John Mallery was working a desk job for a mortgage company in Pittsburgh last year when he heard about a job opening in Iraq. Four days later, the Mt. Lebanon High School graduate was on a plane to Baghdad.

"He liked living on the edge," his mother, Cathleen, said Monday.

Mallery, 28, was killed Saturday when a two-car convoy in which he was riding was ambushed outside of the city of Taji, his relatives said. Mallery was as a logistics coordinator for a company that supplies military bases in Iraq, where he'd been working on and off since June 2003.

Mallery understood the dangers of driving between the military bases, which he would supply with everything from toilet paper to trailers, his mother said.

He often drove his company BMW at speeds in excess of 100 mph across dusty roads, said his brother-in-law, Nestor Gonzales, who went to work in Iraq with Mallery last year.

"It was like the Wild West out there, and he loved it," Gonzales said.

Mallery's boss, MayDay Supply President Jonathan May, called relatives over the weekend to report the death. A call from an Iraqi consulate official early Sunday confirmed the news, Cathleen Mallery said.

John Mallery was riding in a company truck with an Iraqi bodyguard in a two-car convoy about 35 miles northwest of Baghdad, May said.

Gunmen riding in separate vehicles attacked Mallery's vehicle, killing Mallery and seriously injuring his bodyguard. Riders in the other vehicle escaped, picking up the bodyguard, who likely will survive, May said.

Gonzales said his brother-in-law was shot five times, the first shot killing him after piercing the flak jacket he wore.

Gonzales, 34, first met Mallery when the two worked at Lidia's Pittsburgh restaurant in the Strip District. They eventually became family when Gonzales married Mallery's sister, Karen.

The motive of the killing was unknown. May said the Army is investigating.

"John was an American -- that's all that it takes," May said.

Calling the Mallery family late Saturday was "the most difficult thing I've had to do in my life," he said.

"John did everything. He was a salesperson, a driver, a chef, he cooked for us, he entertained us. I cannot express how much he will be missed," May said.

Mallery had traveled the main north-south road out of Baghdad many times to Camp Anaconda, near Balal. "That was his base. He delivered everything to them and he enjoyed it," May said.

Cathleen Mallery said her son, who was prevented from joining the military because of asthma, believed in the work he was doing.

"He told (us) not to believe everything we'd heard because he saw improvements," she said. "When I would ask him about the insurgents, he'd say these people shame the normal Iraqi citizen. They had lived under the thumb of Saddam Hussein for so long."

Mallery told his mother the war and subsequent military occupation of Iraq was improving life there.

"He wanted to be a part of that. He liked it," she said.

Cathleen Mallery said her son knew well the dangers Americans faced in Iraq. He told her about two close calls. In one incident, the windows of his camp trailers were knocked out by shelling. In another, a guard threw him onto the ground to protect him from small arms fire.

These stories were subtle admissions that he understood the danger he lived under, she said.

"He would never say, 'Mom, I'm scared to death,' " she said.

Mallery attended Canon-McMillan High School before transferring to Mt. Lebanon High School his senior year, graduating in 1994. He worked in restaurants as a wine expert and did office work before signing on for a four-month stint for Selrico, a military food supply contractor in Iraq, relatives said.

Gonzales said he saw Mallery for the last time in Mallery's trailer in Baghdad three weeks ago. The two had scotch and Cuban cigars before Gonzales left to return to the United States, Gonzales said.

The two men shared similar reasons for going to Iraq, he said.

"It was something different, something new. We felt we'd be making a difference. We really enjoyed it there. We liked the people," Gonzales said. "I know, speaking for John, it broke our hearts to see people could be so downtrodden."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me