Like the Nation, Military Families Divided on Iraq

Brig. Gen. Richard Rowe presents Beverly Fabri with the flag from the coffin of her son, Pvt. Bryan N. Spry, in 2004.
Brig. Gen. Richard Rowe presents Beverly Fabri with the flag from the coffin of her son, Pvt. Bryan N. Spry, in 2004. (By Charlie Campbell -- Star Democrat Via Associated Press)
By Christian Davenport and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nancy Hecker hasn't read the Iraq Study Group's report. She doesn't need to. She knows her son, Army Maj. William F. Hecker III, died at 37 for a just cause, no matter what the antiwar crowd thinks.

If she "can stand firm in support of our country and the mission, is it too much to ask the rest of the country to do so as well?" she asked.

Beverly Fabri also doesn't need the report to help her make up her mind on Iraq. "We are not going to win this war," she said. "And we shouldn't have gotten involved with it in the first place."

Almost three years after her 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Bryan Nicholas Spry, was killed, she said: "I'm beginning to feel like he just died in vain, I really am."

As the country debates what's next for Iraq, many family members who have lost loved ones in the war are torn about what should happen and how the legacy of those who have died there will be affected.

When the war began nearly four years ago, there was virtually unanimous support for it among military families. But as the country's belief in it has deteriorated, cracks have also begun to show among those who were its staunchest backers. And now, as the death toll mounts, many are struggling to reconcile bad news that seems to keep getting worse with the mission their loved ones believed in and died fighting for.

In Kathy Petty's opinion, the report "is not going to change much." But she's not clear about what should be done in the war that claimed her son, Army Capt. Christopher P. Petty, 33.

On the one hand: "I want the Iraqi people to be free. I want them to have their democracy. That's what Chris died fighting for."

On the other: "You've got almost a civil war. . . . And I'm not sure what we could do better. I'm not sure sending more troops would work."

Her son believed in what he was doing there. She remembers how he talked about building schools for Iraqis, and how the soldiers were treated like heroes by the townspeople.

That's why Petty, of Vienna, doesn't think her son died in vain. But that doesn't mean there are any easy answers to what's happening in Iraq.

"I do want Chris's death to have been meaningful, but I don't know," she said. "It's very hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, if you know what I mean. It just seems to keep getting worse."

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