I started following military affairs carefully after my only child graduated from high school in 1998 and went straight into the Army. He was part of the initial wave of troops invading Iraq in March 2003. He safely returned to civilian life and is now married and in college at the University of Georgia, studying to be a physician. But I have never forgotten the sheer terror I lived with for the several months my son was in Iraq and I feel deep compassion for those whose sons, husbands and fathers did not come home. At the very least, I felt that I could honor those fallen heroes by telling their stories.
When The Tuscaloosa News started the Fallen Warriors series in November 2005, 39 troops from Alabama had died since the war on terror started. In the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of Alabama's sons who have died has nearly tripled. I was features editor at The Tuscaloosa News when the series began. Although I left the paper, I continued to write these profiles on a freelance basis for The News until May 2009.
For the most part, family members have been willing, even happy, to talk with me about their fallen warrior. It seems to be a comfort to them that someone cares enough to not forget the service their loved one provided for this country as well as to just have another opportunity to talk about the great memories they have of their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers or friends. It's not always easy for me to be with their grief, but I know that what they're experiencing is a thousand times tougher than any discomfort I have. My heart goes out to all who have suffered such a loss.
When all the troops come home, it is our intention to put a condensed and updated version of these profiles together into a book to serve not only as a tribute to these troops and their families but to keep us all ever mindful of the human costs of war in our own backyard.
See the Fallen Warrior stories that have been published in The Tuscaloosa News by clicking here or on the button on the menu.