Fort Bragg Absorbs Loss of Nine in Iraq

Suicide bombers killed nine U.S. paratroopers Monday in Iraq. All of those troops came from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. James Brisson, a chaplain at Fort Bragg, notes the impact of the news on that community.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen, sitting in for Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, Iraq's prime minister under political attack.

COHEN: But first, nine U.S. paratroopers were killed in Iraq yesterday when a truck bomb exploded next to their patrol base. Those nine were all from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That made yesterday the deadliest day for Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division since the Iraq war began. In yesterday's truck bomb attack, 20 other soldiers were also wounded.

We're joined now by James Brisson. He's a chaplain at Fort Bragg. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. JAMES BRISSON (Deputy Division Chaplain, 82 Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina): You're welcome.

COHEN: Chaplain, yesterday had to be quite a tough time for the base. How are folks holding up?

Mr. BRISSON: Well, yesterday was an extremely difficult day. But I'll tell you, the resolve and the wonderful strength that our wives have is amazing. I'm awed and struck with greatness of these ladies and their abilities to deal with the situations that they find themselves in. They have bonded together. They have come together for prayer, for holding each other, for tears.

It's a humbling experience to be around these women who support their husbands. I don't say that lightly. I don't say that as a sound bite. It is true. Even in the depth of this darkness, some light is shining, and it comes for mostly from the hearts and the love of these paratroopers' wives and their family members.

COHEN: I understand that about a third of the 18,000 paratroopers who belong to the 82nd Airborne are still there at Fort Bragg. Have you spoken with any of them?

Mr. BRISSON: Oh yes, ma'am. I've spoken with several of them.

COHEN: How are they feeling in light of yesterday's attack?

Mr. BRISSON: Man, you know, that's our - those are our brothers. Those are our brothers yesterday who perished. And all of them have stood up to the line to say how can I help? What can we do to help? So across this post, those who remain here, they are the ones now who are going to get in some type of transportation and go across the nation and perform duties in funeral details, in helping families, bringing assistance to moms and dads, sisters, grandmas, brothers, extended family members. They will go forward and represent this division and the United States Army and our country all across this nation for these families who have lost their loved ones.

COHEN: James Brisson is the deputy division chaplain for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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