“He was a gung-ho, macho guy, and also very soft-hearted,” Rabbi Max Wall said of his grandson, Marine Corporal Mark Asher Evnin, who was killed in action in Iraq on April 3. The 21-year old Vermont resident was a scout sniper with the 1st Marine Division based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Evnin was shot several times in the abdomen at the battle for the eastern Iraqi city of Kut and died in a helicopter en route to the hospital.
“He loved to play with little kids and help them out,” Wall said. “He was a very compassionate person. When one of his teachers got sick, he spent days on end at his house.”
Fiercely proud of being a Marine, Evnin enlisted in the corps shortly after his graduation from South Burlington High School in 2000.
“He just felt it was his job to protect his country,” said his mother, Mindy Evnin. “It wasn’t the hate stuff; it was ‘I have to protect my country,’ and ‘[Saddam Hussein] is a bad man.’
“It was very weird, in basic training… all religious services were on Sunday,” she continued. “Everybody went, because they wanted to get away from their drill instructor… He became friendly with a Muslim in his platoon, and he went to their service. My son was a very non-judgmental person. He called my father to get books on Judaism to give to a Christian friend. He wasn’t all that observant, but he was very proud.”
Mindy Evnin’s greatest fear was not so much that her son would be hurt in Iraq, but that he would move to Israel. “He scared me really to death when he said he wanted to go to Israel and join the Israel Defense Force.”
Born in the United States, Evnin was raised in Panama until he was 3 and grew up speaking more Spanish than English. After returning to the United States, Evnin’s parents divorced, and Evnin and his mother lived in Burlington, Vt.
“He was always in costume,” his mother said. As a child, Evnin went everywhere dressed as Superman, but as he grew older he switched to army camouflage. “We lived at the army-navy store,” she said.
Evnin was a passionate snowboarder and lacrosse, football and videogame player. “He didn’t like school, but he liked learning about things,” she said. In his last few letters home Evnin told his mother he was contemplating going back to college for, perhaps, a career in the F.B.I. or C.I.A., although his mother thought he was going to be a videogame designer.
Evnin is survived by his mother Mindy; his father Michael Evnin of Rockville, Md., and grandparents Max and Miriam Wall of Burlington and Fay Evnin of New York City.