Lita Ebersole (left) and Evelyn Garcia hold a picture of their brother, Maj. Gen. Antonio “Tony” Taguba, who rose to inter-national fame last week for his role in exposing abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Taguba, deputy commanding general for Support, Coalition Forces Land Component Command, was tasked in February to investigate reports of abuse at the prison 20 miles out of Baghdad and on Tuesday, May 11, was called to testify on his findings.
In March, when he visited Hawaii where his parents and two sisters still live, he told family members he was investigating allegations of war crimes in Iraq but he didn’t elaborate.
“We knew he was involved in the investigation but we didn’t know the extent of his participation,” said Ebersole, who works as a concessions management specialist for the Park Service. Her sister, Evelyn, works for Papillon Helicopers in Tusayan.
Early last week, Taguba sent his family an e-mail telling them to pay attention to the news. That’s when they learned he had been leading the investigation with a team he had hand-selected and that his findings were reverberating around the world.
His bearing before the committee and his straightforward answers came as no surprise to his family.
“He’s direct to us and honest,” said Ebersole. “He said he had to do some soul searching because his report might hurt his friends, but he had to do what was morally right. We were proud of how well he did.”
It was, she said, the environment in which he and his six siblings grew up, living in Hawaii. Their father, a career soldier who was a prisoner of war during World War II and escaped during the Bataan Death March, kept a disciplined home and while he was away often on duty, their mother maintained strict order.
“We all grew up with that discipline,” Ebersole said. “Dad raised little soldiers.”
Growing up, Tony was an altar boy whose job at home was spit shining his father’s boots.
“It was his chore,” said Ebersole. “I can still see him shining and polishing his boots. Our father told us if you do it right the first time, you don’t have to worry about it.”
That ethic stuck with Taguba, who has been described in the media as a “spit and polish soldier.” While his brother, Jose, served in the Air Force for four years, Taguba was the only one to follow in his father’s footsteps and make the military a career. One of his missions, once he joined the military, was to see that his father was properly recognized for his years of service. When retired Sgt. 1st Class Tomas Taguba turned 80, he finally received a Bronze Star and Prisoner of War medal.
Antonio Taguba has held command and leadership positions in Germany, Korea and the United States and is one of the two highest-ranking Filipino Americans in the Army. He holds multiple master’s degrees and is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, College of Naval Command and Staff and the U.S. Naval War College.
He has visited his family at Grand Canyon three times since Ebersole and her husband moved here in 1975, most recently in 1992 when he was moving from Germany to a post in Georgia. He remains close with his sisters here, as well as with his nephew Cody Bettencourt, a student at Grand Canyon School.
“He stresses education a lot,” said Ebersole. “He has a son in ROTC and tells his nephew Cody that it’s important to get good grades. He’s a good example.”
She said he visits his family in Hawaii more frequently and that those visits are a high point for their proud father.
Taguba is being reassigned to Washington, D.C., in July, where he will serve as Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Readiness, Training and Mobilization.