U.S. War Dead in Iraq Honored

To commemorate the 4,000th U.S. military death in Iraq, relatives and friends remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their nation far from home.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

More than 4,000 American service members have now died in Iraq since the war began. President Bush pledged today to ensure, in his words, an outcome that will merit the sacrifice of those who have died.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, on this day of reflection, I offer our deepest sympathies to their families. I hope their families know that, you know, citizens pray for their comfort and their strength, whether they were the first one who lost their life in Iraq or recently lost their lives in Iraq, that every life is precious in our sight.

SIEGEL: The president spoke at the State Department. During the past five years, NPR has profiled a number of the men and women who have died in Iraq. We've talked to hundreds of their parents, spouses, children, friends, and others who knew them well.

Here now are the voices of just a few of those people, recalling their loved ones.

Ms. JUANITA DAVIS (Student, Viterbo University): She didn't really want to go, but she knew why she was there and she would have patients in her arms dying, and she knew daily that she had to watch people die. She knew that her life was on the line. She never knew if she'd wake up the next day, but she was there to take care of her guys and to take care of herself and her country.

Mr. SEGISMUNDO LOPEZ MONTALVO (Jesus Montalvo's Nephew): He was the all-American boy, you know. He believes in the United States. He believes in the Armed Forces, you know. I disagree with the reasons why they made this war, you know, but one thing is for sure, I really miss him, you know. He was my hero. I have a hole in my heart. That's the only way I can describe it.

Mr. LAWRENCE KOLEOSKO (Segun Frederick Akintade's Family Friend): He believed that there is nothing you can't achieve in America. If he could live again, I'm sure being the person that he was, he would not even mind dying for United States the second time.

Ms. JULIA JUTRAS (Dillon Jutras' Wife): That I can be a tenth of the type of person he was; that would make me proud. You know, he touched so many lives and he was so young.

Mr. MIGUEL RAMOS (Sgt. Ramos' Son): I feel lonely without my father. He played with us. He see movies with us. He teach us how to speak in English.

Mr. PETER SACK (Former Swampscott High Principal): Jennifer Harris was a superstar, and she would blush at that. She wouldn't assume by now and I wish to God she were. She didn't realize how great she was. She lit up my room, she lit up the office and she lit up the school.

Mr. CARMELO ROMAN (Spc. Alexis Roman-Cruz' Father): I loved my son and I feel like nothing, like nobody. I lost a great man in the world, my son.

Mr. BRAD BOLDT (Jeremy Bohlman's Stepfather): Just the fact that we don't have them anymore, I guess, there, you know, there wouldn't be a Fourth of July to celebrate if somebody hadn't sacrificed their lives, you know. Too bad Jeremy had to be one.

Ms. MARY KEWATT (James Herrgott's Aunt): Twenty-four hours before Jim was killed, we knew that the area he was going to was extremely bad and the last thing that was said, you know, was just keep your head down and keep it in that tank, you know, so you're safe.

SIEGEL: We heard from family and friends of Army Medic Rachael Hugo, Army Staff Sergeant Jesus Montalvo, National Guard Specialist Segun Frederick Akintade, Army Private First Class Dillon Jutras, Army Reserve Sergeant Miguel Angel Ramos, Marine Captain Jennifer Harris, Army Specialist Alexis Roman-Cruz, Marine Lance Corporal Jeremy Bohlman and Army Private First Class Edward James Herrgott. They're among the 4,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces killed in the Iraq War.

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