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Iraq war has taken its toll on Tri-State area

September 24, 2006|by JOEL HUFFER

About a year ago, I read a magazine article about the Army Ten-Miler, a road race through the streets of Washington, D.C.

The article told the stories of about a half-dozen men and women, all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who had been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Some had lost arms, others had lost legs. But not one of them lost the determination it took to complete the course through the nation's capital.

Their stories not only moved me, but they motivated me.

After reading that article, I began running with the goal of completing the event myself someday. That day is Oct. 8.

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In two weeks, I'll be among 24,000 runners to stand alongside courageous men and women like these at the starting line near the Pentagon.

I've never served in the military, but I have great respect for the men and women who do. It's because of their efforts each day - whether on U.S. soil or abroad - that I have the freedoms that I do.

Since the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, The Herald-Mail has reported the deaths of 10 men and one woman with ties to the Tri-State area.

· Army Sgt. David J. Davis, 32, of Mount Airy, Md., was killed Sept. 17 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Sadr City, Iraq. Davis' sister, Theresa Hadley, lives in Hagerstown.

· Army Staff Sgt. Stephen A. Seale, 25, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was killed Aug. 6 in Iraq when a bomb exploded outside the Humvee in which he and two other soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division were riding. The 1999 Martinsburg High School graduate was about three weeks shy of completing his second tour of duty in Iraq.

· Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins Jr., 22, of Thurmont, Md., was one of four Marines killed July 27 in Iraq's Al Anbar province. The 2003 Catoctin High School graduate was a Purple Heart recipient.

· Army 1st Lt. Robert A. Seidel III, 23, of Emmitsburg, Md., was one of four soldiers killed May 18 in Baghdad, Iraq, after an improvised explosive device went off near their Humvee. Seidel graduated from Catoctin High School in 2000.

· Lance Cpl. Steven W. Szwydek, 20, of Warfordsburg, Pa., was killed Oct. 20, 2005, along with two other Marines, by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations near Nasser Wa Salaam, Iraq. The 2003 graduate of Southern Fulton High School and Purple Heart recipient was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

· Ryan Brandt Young, 32, of Williamsport, was killed Sept. 7, 2005, when a bomb destroyed a vehicle in which he was riding. The 1990 graduate of Williamsport High School and former Navy SEAL was working as a contractor performing high-risk diplomatic security in southern Iraq.

· Army Spc. Erik Hayes, 24, was killed Nov. 29, 2004, when a bomb detonated near his military vehicle in Al Miqdadiyah, Iraq. The 1998 graduate of the Living Word Academy in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., joined the military five days before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

· Army National Guard Sgt. Bobby Edward Beasley, 36, of Inwood, W.Va., was killed Aug. 7, 2004, in Ghazikel, Afghanistan, when his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device. The Purple Heart recipient was posthumously promoted to sergeant.

· Army 1st Lt. Adam Mooney, 28, was killed Jan. 25, 2004, after his helicopter crashed into the Tigris River during a rescue mission near Mosul, Iraq. Mooney's mother, Wyoma McCray, was living in Martinsburg, W.Va., at the time of his death.

· Army Staff Sgt. Kimberly Fahnestock Voelz, 27, was wounded Dec. 13, 2003, while inspecting one of three bombs attached to an electrical tower near Iskandariyah, Iraq. The former student at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., died in the arms of her husband the next day in a military hospital in Baghdad.

· Army Staff Sgt. Christopher E. Cutchall, 30, of McConnellsburg, Pa., was killed Sept. 29, 2003, when an explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Iraq. Cutchall was in his fourth tour of duty, and planned to make the military his career, his father said.

These 11 names represent only a small percentage of the more than 3,000 members of the U.S. military who have died during the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what they were doing at the time of their deaths was big - bigger than anything most of us have ever done.

So when I step to the starting line in the shadow of the nation's defense headquarters, I'll take a few moments to reflect on their sacrifices.

And with each stride along the course, I'll run to show my respect for those who have ever worn the uniform of the U.S. military.

It's the least I can do for them after all they have done for me.

Joel Huffer is managing editor of The Morning Herald. He may be reached at 301-791-7587, or by e-mail at joelh@herald-mail.com.

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