Time to Reflect As Iraq Toll Hits 3,000

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By ALLEN G. BREED
The Associated Press
Sunday, December 31, 2006; 8:43 PM

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Perhaps no place illustrates the toll of the Iraq war more vividly than Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. In this "garden of stone," in ruler-straight rows, rest one-tenth of the Iraq war's American dead, whose number has reached 3,000.

Privates lie beside officers. Soldiers beside Marines. Muslim troops beside Christians and those of other faiths.

Many were seasoned veterans, but most _ 60 percent _ never reached age 25. Like Marine Sgt. Adam L. Cann of Davie, Fla., killed when he tried to prevent a suicide bombing three weeks shy of his 24th birthday.

Some died in fierce battles, trading bullets and rockets with a flesh-and-blood foe. But as the insurgency gained momentum in the past year, almost half of the servicemen and women fell to a faceless enemy, victims of remote-detonated IEDs, improvised explosive devices. Like Army National Guard Sgt. Duane Dreasky of Novi, Mich.

Each branch of service is represented here, though the Army has taken two-thirds of the Iraq war losses. Men like Spc. Matthew E. Schneider, a communications wiz who was found dead in his bunk, one of the 20 percent classified as non-hostile casualties.

There are other grim statistics: More than two dozen fell at age 18; 62 were women; nearly one-quarter of those who died came from just three states, California, Texas and New York, according to casualty figures, which also show recent monthly death totals climbing to levels not seen since the war's early days.

The grim milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.

Each of the fallen resting here on a grassy slope facing the Washington Monument could stand for many others _ traditional heroes decorated for acts "above and beyond the call of duty," and those whose families say their heroism consisted of putting on their country's uniform during a time of war.

Arlington honors each with a glistening 232-pound Vermont marble headstone marked with the most basic of information _ and a number.

Cann occupies grave No. 8310.

Dreasky lies down the row in space No. 8407.

And Schneider has marker No. 8422.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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