Every Sunday the Los Angeles Times prints a special obituary section listing the military deaths of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with detailed stories of those from California. I make a point of going through it every Sunday. For those who write this section its a lot of copy and paste Im sure. They can save much time by putting in storage the following phrases,
killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee.
killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near him
killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle while on patrol in Baghdad.
Our servicemen are no longer there to fight, but simply to survive. Rarely do they get the chance to confront an enemy in the manner for which they were trained. When they go on patrol they may as well not be armed for all the good their M-16s do them.
Mostly we drive around Iraq, often we walk and always we wait. Waiting to blow up . Everywhere you look, there's a possibility of being blown up. Bombs are hidden in dead dogs and dead donkeys, trash piles, fruit stands and cars. Any place is a good place to hide a bomb I may still have a young man's body, but now I have an old man's heart, and I know when I'm back home it will quiver from loud noises and strain in the night, while I sleep and I dream.
Bob Herbert of the New York Times describes a fathers reaction to the death of his son, Corporal Schroeder, age 23, one of 14 marines killed last August in a roadside explosion in Haditha, in western Iraq. Schroeders father told Herbert (and later wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post):
"My son told us two weeks before he died that he felt the war was not worth it. His complaint was about having to go back repeatedly into the same towns, to sweep the same insurgents, or other insurgents, out of these same towns without being able to hold them, secure them. It just was not working, and that's what he wanted to get across."
Then there is the story of Major Ray Mendoza, U.S. Marine Corps. His story was written as a special by Tony Perry, who has been covering the Iraq war for the Los Angeles Times [Ref. 2]. Writes Perry:
When I hear that any Marine has been killed, I can sense the grief that has descended on the family and the corps. I'm always saddened but rarely surprised .Only once has my reaction been of disbelief: No, not him. It can't be. Not Ray Mendoza.
At 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, Mendoza had been a star wrestler at Ohio State in the 1990s and, as a Marine, an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team His shoulders were Herculean. His wrists were the size of an average man's biceps. When he wore running shorts, his legs looked like pillars. And he moved with an athlete's grace, as if he could unleash speed and power at any time; no swagger, just confidence .[But]on Nov. 14, in a joint U.S.-Iraqi mission to break up insurgent strongholds along the Syrian border, Mendoza had led his troops to the village of Ubaydi. As he stepped from his Humvee, he was struck full force by a hidden roadside bomb, and died instantly. His battalion commander emailed Perry later saying, "If you thought anyone could stare down death and beat it, it was Ray." But no one stares down death. Only a fool would make such a statement. Death knows no distinctions. Young or old, weak or strong, death could care less.
Let me conclude with the story of Pat Tillman, the NFL football star who turned down a $3 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals so he could fight with the Army Rangers against Osama bin laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, while on patrol in the Taliban-infested southeastern region of Afghanistan. His story is complicated, but this much we know. Tillman was killed accidentally by his own troops in a case of friendly fire, otherwise known as fratricide.
In an extremely detailed article by Steve Coll of the Washington Post [Ref. 3], we learn of the details leading to Tillmans death. Tillmans platoon had mechanical problems in one of their humvees (a fuel pump) and found themselves stranded in enemy territory as nightfall descended. The platoon commander, Lt. David Uthlaut, wanted to keep his platoon in one group for safety, but was overruled by his company commander, sitting at headquarters. Uthlaut, a recent West point graduate argued that it was against Ranger policy to engage in sweep operations at night. But Uthlaut was overruled. It was this splitting up of the platoon that led the two units to eventually engage each other in a confused firefight, each thinking the other the enemy. And in this exchange of fire, Tillman was killed, three shots in his skull that literally took his head off according to one of his fellow Rangers.
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