Sgt. Jason Dominguez of Lima Company served in Iraq. [National Veterans Memorial and Museum]

Sgt. Jason Dominguez: Living right for lost comrades

His calendar fills each year as the weather warms, beginning around Mother's Day and ending in early August.

The days for Jason Dominguez are marked, emotionally, by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve comrades he lost in Iraq as a sergeant in Lima Company. And each day, for the past 10 years, he has filled those days by meeting with relatives of the fallen, or contemplating their sacrifice at a cemetery.

"You just have all these dates that pop up," he said recently. July 28 is among the more indelible.

That's the day in 2005 that his squad leader, Andre Williams, was killed as his fellow Marines and Iraqi soldiers cleared buildings in the village of Cykla, about 120 miles west of Baghdad. Insurgents inside what was thought to be an empty building opened fire, striking Williams in the head.

Since returning home, small memories and rituals mark the dates. The 38-year-old Northwest Side resident will be among other local veterans whose stories are part of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum opening today.

His friend had a habit of dabbing hot sauce on his hand and licking it just before drinking a shot of Crown Royal whisky. Dominguez inherited the ritual, once a year.

"It's disgusting, but it's a tribute to Andre Williams," Dominguez said.

Sgt. Dominguez is featured in several videos at the museum about service and coming home.

Dominguez, an executive at Nationwide Insurance, has two young boys, a wife and much to live for.

He was told by a commanding officer: "If you go home and do nothing with your life, shame on you. You need to live a life that's worthy of the sacrifice that they made."