Tuesday, January 02, 2007
A story that needs to be told
On the wall of my office are pictures of four young men. They are smiling the way people in their twenties do when the world is a river of possibilities stretching ahead. I have never met them, and never will, but I miss them every day.

Jesse Strong, Chris Weaver, Karl Linn, and Jonathan Bowling. Marines. Two years ago this month they all died in Iraq in an ambush on the banks of the Euphrates River.

As we pass the milestone of 3,000 fatalities in Iraq, it troubles me that there is simply not enough time in the world to tell the stories of all who have served and died in Iraq and Afghanistan, although their stories certainly deserve to be told and remembered.

So for the past few months I have been reconstructing the story of just these four men: Strong, Weaver, Linn and Bowling.

I've looked at their lives, their deaths, and the enormous impact they had on everyone around them. I have visited with their families; talked to brothers and sisters, friends, fiances, neighbors. I have read the military reports on how they died, and talked at length with other Marines who stood with them on that terrible night when the darkness erupted with bullets and rockets. I have stood in the homes these young men left behind, and knelt beside their graves.

And I have sat in my office here night after night, often until 3:00 in the morning, staring at their pictures and trying to write their story. It is easier at night, when no one is knocking at the door, no one calling, no e-mails; nothing to disturb the profound sadness that surrounds the events that took their lives.

History will judge the rights and the wrongs of this war, but whether you are in favor of it or not, you need to know the story of these men. Maybe because stories such as this help the war remain real and visceral; not abstract numbers and names flying through the news. Maybe because these four young men willingly did what their country asked them to do ... what we asked them to do ... and because they did it with courage, faith and honor. Maybe you should know their story, because we can't know all of the stories of all the thousands who have died.

So tonight we will tell the story of these four Marines. And once you know them, I suspect you too will miss them every day.
Posted By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent: 1:09 PM ET
Looks like an excellent report, Tom.
Makes me ask myself, 'can there really be people who would sacrfice their lives for the safety, security and defense of our country? Who are willing to die for me? Who are these Americans? Shouldn't I know them?'
Posted By Anonymous Steve Peoria , IL : 2:04 PM ET
Tom, THANK YOU so much for being one of the first to actually put a life behind what until now has been just a number. America sees the number, now we have reached 3000, and for those that never knew any of them, the deaths of our young service men and women are just that-sad, tragic numbers. I feel that perhaps the only way the current administration can continue to goad the public into allowing the war to continue is by dissociating the numbers with the lives that were actually lost. Thank you, Mr. Foreman, for undertaking this project, I can only imagine how difficult it must be. Every single life that was needlessly lost needs to have their story told. Unfortunately, when the number is over THREE THOUSAND that would probably take decades and an entire army of writers to complete. This is a good start though. Let us never ever allow our government to justify an illegal war again, and let us never forget the lives that were lost due to the lies and deception by this "president" and his evil cronies. Can you imagine the heartache their families must go through each and every day? This Christmans when we were opening out gifts surrounded by loving family there were thousands and thousands of families grieving the senseless loss of their loved ones due to greed and evil. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for this! Thanks again Tom!
Posted By Anonymous nathan karczewski, junction city, KS : 2:05 PM ET
I am surprised that nobody, as far as I know, has mentioned the milestone when the number of fatalities surpassed the number of deaths on 9/11.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : 2:32 PM ET
Yes, this is a story that should be told, to honor the Marines and their families.
There's those who stay at home, wring their hands, fly the white flag of surrender and appeasement, then there are those who will stand up and fight. Yes, this is a story that has to be told, to show us who the REAL men and women of this country are and what real courage is.
Posted By Anonymous DH - Lake Barrington Ill. : 2:34 PM ET
The fact that these stories are being told at all does a great service to those who have sacrificed their lives in this war. And it is a sacrifice to lose your life to help save other lives. That's what our armed service people are doing in Iraq and wherever else they are. CNN has focused more attention on these soldiers' stories than any other network. These stories speak for the thousands of others out there. And whether you support this war or not(and I don't), you need to see it as it really is: brutal.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Darby, Denham Springs, LA : 2:46 PM ET
Each story, a broken thread, a broken family, a broken dream.

However, each is a hero, and makes MY life and all of our families lives more stable.

To each of the more than 3,000 women and men that have died (and will contiune to die), I can only say that their sacrifice was forced upon them, and that each person living in America is fortunate that such individuals choose to serve. If not, our country would be terribly different.

Thank you, and God Bless them all!
Posted By Anonymous Frosty, Houston, TX. : 3:03 PM ET
Pray Geo. W is watching. HE needs to hear their stories! Apparently it's easy enough to send strangers' children into harm's way, while yours are safe, enjoying life at an Ivy league school.
Posted By Anonymous Barb North Liberty, IA : 3:05 PM ET
Dear Mr. Foreman:

Thank you for doing this piece. We really need to see what 3,000 means as a loss, not to mention the loss of all of the innocent Iraqis/Afghanis and all of their friends and families that have been forever changed by that breach.

I work with low-income adult learners in Philly, and two children of students were killed in separate shootings this fall. Not just stats, for sure, but real people with real, grieving families that are only a small part of the horrendous murder stat this past year.

In relation to the other blog posting ("Stories We're Watching"): Thank you to Oprah for being proactive in changing THOSE stats (poverty, AIDS, etc.) and helping girls become leaders who can make a difference. A good school isn't just a pretty building and a well-stocked library (although those certainly help), it is a place where kids are told that people believe in them and that they should believe in themselves as well, gives them the tools (both physical--as in books-- and in terms of study/organizational skills), and then holds them accountabe for doing well. The girls at this school know that Oprah believes in them, and I for one have great hope in what that will mean for their futures.

With Iraq, we have an example of American power gone awry, and with Oprah's school, we have an example of American power done right, even if it is, sadly, from an individual and not our country as a whole. Bread--or books-- not bombs is a much better way to change statistics in the future. Which is why Ms. Winfrey wants to be a part of the school rather than just a donor: because when "statistics" touch you, you can't not get involved.

For our troops, the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan, Oprah's students, CNN staff, and all the rest of us: best wishes for a safe, happy, and healthy 2007! And keep it up with stories like this that matter...
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 3:07 PM ET

This past month at my church's Women's Christmas luncheon we had as our guest speaker a mom who lost her son Jessie in Iraq. He was a young father of three children nearing the end of his tour when he died. As Becky shared her story you could feel her pain as she shared that her son's December birthday was approaching and how hard it was for her. She shared about his patriotism and how much he believed in what he was doing.

I have been opposed to the war since the beginning, but I respect this brave soldier's commitment to what he thought was right and his sacrifice. We all need to support our troops regardless of what we think of this administration's policies. Becky sent care packages to Jessie and his buddies on a weekly basis. After his death she started Packed With Pride and sends packages to other mom's sons and daughters serving in the military all over the world. We church ladies raised enough money to pay the postage to send over 300 packages. Here we are in an age of excess and what does a soldier want--a clean, dry pair of socks and to know that someone back home is thinking of him or her.

Thank you for your work on this important story. It is important to make things personal and real.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 3:08 PM ET
I am looking forward to this story tonite. Each man or woman that dies in this war, has a story. They a lifetime of memories, a family, plans for the future, sometimes a spouse and children and so much more. These stories need to be told so Americans know what they are doing for us. Because of those brave souls, we can enjoy our families, make plans for the future, and most of all live free.
Posted By Anonymous Amy Draghi Wallingford, CT : 3:17 PM ET
Dear Tom,

Thank you for your heartfelt post this afternoon. I wonder how many photos Mr. Bush looks at before he makes life altering decisions regarding the war? It might be a good idea for him to do it now before he launches his "new idea" to send more troops to Iraq.

I hope the media will continue to show us stories about the men and women in the military. Just watching their names scrolling by us does not deliver the impact of witnessing these courageous individuals as living, breathing human beings. All of us should be reminded that they were, and are individuals with hopes and dreams who belong to families that love them. They are more than just names on a list. I think of them daily.

Thank you again for your sensitivity and candor; I look forward to your report tonight. With the death toll passing 3,000 it comes at a very poignant time.

Best wishes,
Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 3:17 PM ET
Dear Mr. Foreman,
I was on a flight from El Paso to Chicago with my 4 year old son this past March 2006. As we waited to board our flight I couldn't help but notice the 100+ army soldiers waiting to board their flight. I overheard a few of them call their moms and tell them everything would be ok. I thought how wonderful it was that they thought of mom. As they called us to board the plan I found it odd that there were only 5 people on board, but when the soldiers started marching in I realized that these 18 - 22 year old men were on their way to Iraq. They were from Fort Bliss and headed to Iraq. My son was passed around like candy throughout the flight and I was glad he was able to take their mind of the job that lay ahead. But, I have to say that I cried the entire flight because I knew deep in my heart that some of them would never make it home. Everynight I pray for those boys and everynight I wonder how they are. Thank you for telling their story, thank you for giving them a face.
Posted By Anonymous Ester, Chicago, Illinois : 3:21 PM ET
I hope bush will see this ....
Posted By Anonymous Joann Naglowsky Lusby ,Maryland : 3:23 PM ET
This is a comment to Steve's comment. I have a son who did his time in the Navy during the first Gulf conflict. He left active service after the conflict but hearind about a program that allows prior service members to transition back . . . to the Army. Yes, my youngest who is no longer a teenager, is going to give some more to his country not because he wants to go to war but because there are too many 18 year olds dying.

Tom, you blog was wonderful.
Posted By Anonymous Linda, Seal Beach, CA : 3:24 PM ET
Tom, that was a touching story to read. The feelings you have for these strangers is what makes you a good journalist. I am looking forward to the story tonight, and thank you for writing from your heart.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 3:26 PM ET
I too am deeply saddened for the deaths of our men and women but especially for the Marines. My eldest son will be graduating this year in May and he has choosen the Marine Corps. He feels it is his duty to serve our country. I am trying to cope with his decision and I pray every single day for peace. I support our troops but I truly feel it is time for our men and women to come home. My 17 year old tells me quite often "Mom this is what I was born to do and these freedoms do not come easy". I am doing it because I love you, the family and my friends."

God Bless America!
Posted By Anonymous Carolyn Spring, Tx : 3:37 PM ET
You have taken on a huge task in telling four stories. I just finished writing a book about one of the youngest female soldiers to die in combat in Iraq. She was 18, and she can be seen here:


If only we could tell the story of each one who has died! It would make the war more personal, maybe more unbearable. By telling these stories, we bring a form of remonstrance to those who wage these awful wars--perhaps we can bring about change by shining the light on the hopes, dreams, and loves of those who have died. Keep on keepin' on, Tom. Those we've lost wouldn't want it any other way.
Posted By Anonymous Leslie Ann Garrison, Seattle, Washington : 3:40 PM ET
In a world where we are bombarded with almost daily updates on the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, et al (and who really cares?), it's wonderful that you plan to tell these stories. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous David K. Cannon, Honolulu, Hawaii : 3:40 PM ET
Thank you for telling the often times "uknown stories" -- you are correct, these are stories that will stay in my heart forever. I grieve for their families and friends - I am saddened by the loss of their young lives - and I will forever be thankful that there are Americans who believe in America, love America and were willing to put their life on the line for me. What an awesome debt all Americans owe these young people. I am proud to be an American, but I even prouder that someone cared enough to be "the few, the proud, the Marines."
Posted By Anonymous Mary Hopper, Conway, SC : 3:42 PM ET
please don't take this wrong but why these soldiers they are not the only one that have died in this war. I have a son going in the army January 11,2007. we have had many brave soldiers lose there life they are all to be remember
Posted By Anonymous sylva, Cleveland,Texas : 3:43 PM ET
Danelle Weaver, Chris' fiance of the same name, is my wife's best friend. She was in our wedding.

When I looked at Danelle's beautiful smile that day all I could think of was her immeasurable loss.

As the souls of each soldier pass before me on the evening news. I know somewhere, beyond all the numbers, there are an exponential number of tears being shed on their behalf.

I don't know if Danelle will be watching tonight. But I do know she is loved both here and above.

Mark Nichols
Louisville, Kentucky
Posted By Anonymous Mark Nichols, Louisville Kentucky : 3:47 PM ET
My childhood friend Mike was one of those 3000. We grew up and apart as many people do. I just always remember him being the sweetest boy. Every middle school girl should be so lucky to have a guy like that in her world. He died back in the States after being wounded in Iraq. His injuries were too much. He wasn't just one of 3000. He was real. He left family and friends and people he never even knew he touched.

Thank you for telling the stories of four. Maybe one day the powers that be will get it. These soldiers aren't just a statistic. I know they choose this. They follow orders. I just hope that those in charge are sure that the cause for which these soldiers lose their lives is worth the grief left behind. I never understood my father's tears at the Vietnam Memorial when I was a teen. I never understood the sadness of his personal loss and regret. They were simply names on a wall to me. Unfortunately, in Iraq, the names are real to me. And last night as Anderson talked about a soldier who died in the states as a result of injuries sustained in this conflict, I thought about Mike and cried.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 3:53 PM ET
These are stories that need to be told. But, I have found myself wondering when are we going to see the stories of the thousands of wounded soldiers, who don't even get their names mentioned on the evening news.

About a year ago I accompanied my daughter (a journalist with the Colorado National Guard) to Walter Reed hospital. Seeing the numbers of severely wounded soldiers was like a slap in the face. While I have the greatest of sympathy for those who have lost a loved one in Afghanistan or Iraq, and the greatest respect for the soldiers themselves, I also hope to one day see the stories of those casualties that have sacrificed a great deal as well.
Posted By Anonymous D. Smith, Littleton, CO : 3:57 PM ET
Why is so much attention constantly being given to the men and women who lost their lives in Iraq as opposed to other wars? All of our fallen are brave defenders of our nation, and to the best of my knowledge, we've lost less than 1% of the soldiers we lost in WWII.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Burlington, VT : 4:00 PM ET
To see that Marine (Klein) ask the Doctors to, "save his life". Its quite compelling and brings a chill to your spine! This Marine is fighting for security of his country. Is this Marine truely prepared to die for his country? I am sure we all have our oppinions. The words this Marine uses, when he pleas to the Doctors is powerful. How many times, do these Doctor hear those words!
Posted By Anonymous Claude Calgary AB Canada : 4:05 PM ET
I started to watch the film of the soldier who asked the doctor to save his life. The doctor "promised" to do so. I had to turn it off right after that, knowing this poor kid didn't make it.
I respect them for being there, but do not agree it was the right thing for our country to do. I hope the old men who send our kids to die will see these graphic, bloody films and hear the children begging not to die. Maybe they will consider this before they make their decisions to send what they only see as "numbers" into a cause the American people never got to vote on.
Posted By Anonymous Tim Reading Pa. : 4:32 PM ET
I have noted that most of the people I deal with that are in favor of this war hate to look at the faces and names of the brave American servicemen and women. This should be manditory.
In regards to the Bush administration:
Since when did Bush equal patriotism?
At my job, I am responsible for results. If I fail to produce I lose my job. No one can argue that Iraq is in far worse shape than when we got there. Why do we not expect our elected officials (who by the way make far more in a wage than most of us) to produce positive results? I am tired of their bogus excuses.
What would $300 billion do for energy research and the healthcare system. These people (Bush regime) do not care about "we the people" - us!
Posted By Anonymous Rick Freeman, Seattle, WA : 4:42 PM ET
We need to see the faces, not just the numbers. We also need to know how we as fellow citizens, neighbors, can help/support the families of the fallen without infringing on their privacy much.
Posted By Anonymous Rory Garcia, San Antonio, Texas : 4:46 PM ET
hi, Tom

Thanks for reminding us our war heroes, they are the angels of peace. These soldiers are victims of history and war even if we are winning; but their bravery and faith are the pillars of our strength, the inspiration of our dynamic forces. I am grateful that you tell the story of those bravery, it's time to pay our respects and appreciation to those soldier. I am so moved and inspired by thier amazing stories.

God blesses our heroes!
Posted By Anonymous Gabrielle. toronto, ON : 4:59 PM ET
Chris, seriously. There is really no need for that. They are given attention because it's happening right now, in the present, effecting EVERYONE'S lives. It doesn't matter that less than 1% have died. What matters is that more than 3,000 are gone, and the numbers are only rising. That "less than 1%" has family, friends, wives, daughters, sons, and parents. I'm sure WWII soldiers were given more attention than soldiers from the Revolutionary War as WWII was happening. These men in Iraq DESERVE to be recognized, and thank God that someone has finally decided to step up and put a face with a name, and a soul with a number. Don't make this into a "who can get the most attention" deal. If anything, the wounded should also be getting recognition. They don't, and yet they're the ones alive to see it.
Posted By Anonymous Renae Fountain, CO : 5:01 PM ET
Journalists don't "honor" anyone - they feed off of death and misery.

As for the war - you're either in favor of it, or in favor of murderous dictators, death squads, and international terrorists. There is no middle ground, no "objective" perspective.
Posted By Anonymous John Kantor, St. Petersburg, Florida : 5:04 PM ET

Thank you for telling these young men's stories. I am looking forward to tonight's broadcast. Hopefully, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the recovery of recovering from the holiday season, your story will not let the bravery and courage of these men (and the other men and women like them...our freedom fighters) be brushed aside.

Thank you, Tom, and the crew of AC 360 for keeping the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan never far from our minds.
Posted By Anonymous Mandy, Boston, MA : 5:12 PM ET
Ah, if 'leadership' and much of this nation measured up to those who chose to stand and serve. Thanks for keeping our troops in the news.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 5:13 PM ET
Thank you for putting names behind the "numbers." I'd like to add that comparing casualties to this war as previous wars is not "apples to apples." With the advancement in medicine many soldiers that would have died in past wars, have survived this war with very serious life changing injuries.
Posted By Anonymous Trudi, Roseville : 5:48 PM ET
"Journalists don't "honor" anyone - they feed off of death and misery.

As for the war - you're either in favor of it, or in favor of murderous dictators, death squads, and international terrorists. There is no middle ground, no "objective" perspective."

Jon, are you serious? Or did you stumble across this blog on your way to Fox News?

Grab a rifle, strap on your flack jacket and head on over there yourself. It is people like you that perpetuate the neo-con fascist delusions that sweep uninformed people to the dark side. shame on you..
Posted By Anonymous nathan karczewski, junction city, KS : 6:08 PM ET
Hi Tom-Happy New Year! I had to travel to Pa. last week for a funeral for a dear uncle. It is always such an emotional experience. I also have been watching parts of Mr Ford's services. These two men were older and had lived full lives. It is so hard to see these brave young men and women losing their lives, many just barely out of their teens. How sad these services must be and so hard on those left behind. Mr. Bush says he visits with the families of the fallen. I hope he thinks about the growing number of dead and wounded as he works on his Iraq plan. Thanks for spending time on this story. P.S. Loved AC's New Year's celebration. It was fun and festive.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago, Il : 6:08 PM ET
I had the honor of praying over these men as they were prepared to Medivac at Haditha dam. In the days that followed we visited their families and related the care and prayers that surrounded them that evening. Our very freedom is afforded us by men and women like these - I will never forget them or what they stood for - and what they did for all of us.
Posted By Anonymous Edd C. Hendee Houston, TX : 6:19 PM ET
It is stories like these and people like those four young men that make me want to stand up and shout at everyone that is only focusing on our "idiotic" government. These men died fighting for us and for our country and for our cause. Please, lets all take a second to realize that and respect them, this war, and this country for what they were trying to do. Which is restore peace and democracy and safety. Whether you agree with the war or not respect the fighters and the leaders, they are only trying to help and they are giving everything to do so. God bless the families of those four men and the 3,000 other fallen soldiers.
Posted By Anonymous Molly Gray, La Canada CA : 7:13 PM ET
I can imagine that it must be a difficult task to choose which soldiers' stories you are going to tell. Even if you presented one soldier's story every night, it would take years to cover them all, and I think some of them are simply unknown.

Thanks for presenting these stories and know that we understand that there are many more that we will never know. Whether you are for or against the war, we must all keep these fighting men and their families in our thoughts and our prayers.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 9:58 PM ET
These are the true American HEROES. Not sports figures, not actors, not celebraties. But these so very young men and women that do jobs like this for so little compensation. They are the epitomes of what bravery and selfless sacrifice really means.
Posted By Anonymous Barb, Green Bay, WI : 10:10 PM ET
Let's bring our heroes back home safe and sound...let's get them out of there..
Posted By Anonymous Dianne Zimmermann, St. Louis, MO : 10:10 PM ET

A wonderful documentary photographer once said, "to remedy a problem we must first see it and people of goodwill, once they see it, will work to correct it." Thank You!
Posted By Anonymous Lori, Las Vegas NV : 10:58 PM ET
It was so difficult for me to watch "Ambush..." as my beloved nephew Dan is a Marine serving in Haditha at this time, and I want more than anything to think that this can't happen to him, to us. But as you so eloquently portrayed, each of those men were someones' beloved- and the cost of war is exactly this. I only hope that such programs motivate those watching to actively remind their elected officials that the last election was about Iraq and that they better do something definitive to end this bloodshed.
Posted By Anonymous Laura Tashjian, Nashua NH : 11:17 PM ET
Thank you so much, Tom, for making those who sacrafice so much REAL - we hear the numbers every day, say a silent prayer for their families - and then there is another day. This is a story that we all need to see. I hope President Bush saw it, and ponders it as he's making decisions affecting our youth.
Posted By Anonymous DianaR Belvidere, IL : 11:22 PM ET

Your late nights definitely paid off. The show was extremely well done. It was a fitting tribute to the sacrifice that these young men made for all of us but at the same time showed the palpable pain of their families.

Thank You
Posted By Anonymous Stephanie, Washington, DC : 11:24 PM ET
Wow, that was a wonderful and touching story. It brought me to tears. We are lucky to have these brave men and women who are serving, and protecting our country. I will continue to keep them in my prayers.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 11:25 PM ET
thats the the the kind story of we want to see from ac 360 and cnn !!
bravo bravo !!
"ambush at the river of secrets" was equal to a top notch 60 minutes story, quality news story, your back on track cnn producers.
the 4 soldiers were honoured with great adoration and respect thanks to Tom Foreman. great work Tom!
now keep it up and stay away from beauty queens and the trumpster.
Posted By Anonymous bridget ontario canada : 11:28 PM ET
Did anyone make it through tonight's show dry-eyed?

Thank you for putting faces on a number that is so hard to comprehend. I had not cried over this war before tonight. But we should cry, we owe them that.
Posted By Anonymous Claire Colvin, White Rock, BC : 11:36 PM ET
Mr. Foreman,
Thank you so much for your amazing story honoring these 4 Marines. I am from Stuart, VA--hometown of Jonathan Bowling--while I did not know him I know many people who considered him a close friend. I feel your story did much to honor all of these men's lives-not just the way they died. Thank you for a very poignant, touching story. I know our town will never forget the sacrifice these men made. God bless you.
Posted By Anonymous Leanne, Stuart, VA : 11:54 PM ET
Tom and AC360,

First I would like to say thank you for doing this story.

Rarely do you see this kind of story that brings the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan home for those of us who don't have family, close friends or just plain too busy with everyday life to pay attention. While viewing the story my emotions ran the full gambit from hatred to hope and by the end of it I was in tears.

I hope the viewers of AC360, whether they are for the war or against it, pray that an end to the war(s) can be reached before more service men/women and their families have to go through the pain that these four men�s families are going thought now.
Posted By Anonymous Donna Williams, Minneapolis MN : 11:59 PM ET
Thank you for the presentation of the Ambush at "River of Secrets," It was beautifully told, but very heart wrenching. I wish it were madatory for the President to view these presentations, but each of these young men asked to become a Marine and go where Marines go to help maintain peace in various areas of the world. As the one mother said, perhaps in years to come the citizens of that worn-torn country will be thankful for the lives lost to give them their freedom. I hope so. Bev Newell
Posted By Anonymous Bev Newell, Silver Spring, MD : 12:09 AM ET
OUTSTANDING SHOW, I cried all the way through the show. You showed what everyone in America needs to see. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Janis Humbert Hartford Kansas : 12:15 AM ET
You are absolutely right that these are stories the need to be told. How many Americans know someone who has served or is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or Kuwait? How many even know someone who is in the active military? It's so easy for most of us to carry on as though this is merely a story that occupies a few minutes of the nightly news or a few columns of the newspaper. The lack of any call for national sacrific has made it very easy to stay detached. But, as you've found, once you start getting to know the young men and women who are serving in the Middle East, it is impossible not to care about them deeply and to feel a personal investment in what is happening over there.

You don't have to wait until after they have been killed, though, to learn their stories and to care about them. I urge everyone to think about connecting with and supporting troops who are deployed overseas. There are numerous organizations out there that provide ordinary Americans with an opportunity to do so. Two that I highly recommend are www.booksforsoldiers.com and www.anysoldier.com. No matter how we might feel about why they are over there, they need our support - you would be amazed at how much a simple letter or a snack or a dvd from back home can mean to them.
Posted By Anonymous Andrea S., Arlington, VA : 12:24 AM ET
I am sorry to write in twice on one blog, but I wanted to give some feedback.. To Rory Garcia, who wanted to know what we could do to help support families of the fallen or wounded, here are some ideas:

* First, give them space, but let them know that you want to help when and if they need it. Ask them what they want, and think about ideas that relate to the interests of those who died or their families (for example, if sports and kids were important to someone, consider hosting a sports' night for local kids)

* Write into the local and national media you watch/read and ask them to cover the war more, and to cover the stories behind the statistics. If you knew the person who was killed or wounded, ask the family if it would be okay if you contacted the local media about doing a story about him/her (and find out if you or another friend could write something in a reader-written section).

* I love the woman who got together with others to send care packages to other troops after her kid was killed

* If you believe in prayer, it might not be a bad idea... This is something you can do even if you don't know the family well (I know I saw a prayer every time I see a fallen or wounded soldier on TV).

* Buy an archival-quality diary or scrapbook and have friends and family write some memories of the person who was killed. If he/she had kids, you can consider having people create one for each kid, so it can be given to them when they get older. People can write memories of the person who died as well as special memories they witnessed or the fallen soldier told them about the children. You could probably do somthing similar with a video camera, if you prefer.

* Raise money to help them out financially. As I have unfortunately found out with my students who had to bury their boys way too young due to gun violence, funeral costs are unbelievable, and there are other tangential costs that you wouldn't imagine. You could also raise money to help out a charity that is important to the family or one that helps wounded soldiers (like Fisher House) and/or the families of fallen soldiers.

* Let your friend know that it is okay to talk about if they want, and equally okay to not talk about it if they want. So many people going through a loss want to remember the person who died, and should know that it perfectly valid to be filled with pain and love years later at a certain anniversary or for no particular reason (it could be something as simple as seeing their loved one's favorite cereal in the grocery store). And, often, the rest of us feel awkward bringing the name of the person who died up, when (usually, at least), families want to talk about and remember them, especially if it is a happy memory or one that shows how the person who died touched others.

* Don't be pushy about it, but let your friends know you are happy to help out with cleaning, babysitting, cooking, etc. so people can have some time to themselves.

* Be creative. If you have a special talent, offer of that. If you quilt, you can make a special quilt in honor of the person who died (perhaps with squares representing major milestones). If you cook, you can make a favorite meal. Etc.

A few months ago, I visited the church where my mom is a chaplain. There is a part of the service where the congregation prays for different things ("Prayers for the people" for those of you familiar with the Episcopal service), and my mom prayed for the fallen, reading the names of those whose deaths had been announced over the past weeks. My mom started to choke up and nearly cried as she read the names, and many of the rest of us teared up as well. Unfortunately, this is the scene every week at her church, since more names make the list every bloody week.

Pray for peace.
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 12:32 AM ET
Thank you Tom, 1-for the heads up on the story, 2-for the story.

When do think more Americans will finally understand that this was is being lost - not by those who serve - but by those who 'represent', in this case falsely the reasons why Iraq was invaded in the first place.

Every morning and evening our USMC family prays for the safe return of all who are there. Every evening we see how many more were killed, injured, missing.

My husband and father of our four boys, served 30 years before retiring...there are many boxes of letters and cards sent by my hi-school sweetheart, fiance, husband, father of TWO sets of twins and best friend from Japan, Bosnia, Germany, Japan, Grenada, Afghanistan, Somewhere in the Middle East, Irag (91-92), Quantico, Iran, Iraq (02-03). In 28 years of marriage, we have packed up and moved 19 times...sometimes to familiar places. At each duty station friends were made, bonds strengthened by "our common cause". Now two god-sons and one god-daughter are serving in Iraq (USMC, USA, USN).

I want to see their children, as yet unborn. I want to tell embarassing stories about their childhoods to potential spouses. I want them home.

Eash number represents a hero..someone who stood up to answer the call, to stand sentry for peace. Revolutionary thru current conflicts... to keep me and mine safe. I trust them. I believe in them. I do not want to attend any more funerals for fallen heroes.

I would, however, sit gleefully in the Rotunda to watch Mr. Bush resign. I would even hold the door for him...

THANK YOU for continuing to remind us of their plight... a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

30,002,000 blessings in the New Year.
Posted By Anonymous l.a. bethesda, md : 12:45 AM ET
Hey Tom,
That was such a sad heartbreaking story, thankyou for telling it. I cannot imagine being the parents or family of a son or daughter stationed in Iraq. How do they not let it get the better of them waiting for that Military car to pull into their driveway with the awful news. They are so brave, both the troops and the families, my sympathy and prayers go out to them all and I will pray for end of that senseless war.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada. : 1:49 AM ET
Simply brought tears to my eyes. My heart goes out to the families mentioned and all other families of the men and women who gave their lives and are still fighting. May there soon be an end in sight, and end to all the heartache.
Posted By Anonymous William Roberts 21 yrs old, San Antonio, Texas : 1:54 AM ET
Tom, Anderson and the whole crew at CNN...
Thanks for sharing this incredible story... just one of so many from the war in Irag.
Thanks for bringing the lives and families of these four incredible men to the forefront.
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to pause and say a quiet thanks to all those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Posted By Anonymous Erick Petersen, Bend, OR : 2:16 AM ET
After watching this special, I can not find words to express the deep gratitude I owe to all Soldiers who so willingly risk their lives to be sure that my children & the children of all Americans are free & safe. May God Bless them and their families! We are the Home of the free BECAUSE of the BRAVE! I am so thankful and proud of every single Soldier that serves our country! THANK YOU!!
Posted By Anonymous Pam Leonard Monticello, Indiana : 2:17 AM ET
Thank you. I am a 25 year old female soldier serving in Baghdad and it warmed my heart to hear the story of these four marines. I tell my friends and family the most important thing they can do for us over here is to remember... the worst feeling is thinking we are forgotten over here, and I like to hear that there are those out there who remember us. Thank you again
Posted By Anonymous Amber, Baghdad Iraq : 2:17 AM ET
Thank you. It takes courage to air their stories; rather than "feed off death and misery," you have put a face on lives, given bravely. I do not like the "snuff film" aspect of local news, but there are some stories which must be brought to light.

I am not in favor of the war, because I also do not believe in a middle ground: who defines the word "dictator"? Is a dictator somebody who does not allow some people to vote of particular ethnic groups or voting blocks? Does a dictator neglect to help his people in need? Is a dictator somebody who tortures his prisoners and does not even allow the "due process" of law described in Acts 25:16? Does a dictator and his appointees only concern themselves with how much they are paid? Our leaders should ask themselves how much the 3000 soldiers who have died have paid, and the 22,000 wounded.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth Dowling, Akron, Ohio : 2:17 AM ET
I have never in my life viewed such a well done documentary than that about the four young soldiers whose lives and deaths you allowed us to witness this evening. It was very difficult to watch, but I felt I owed it to these men and other men and women in the services who have died and for those who continue to put themselves in harms way. I only hoped that those who advocated the war, especially Bush, took the time to watch the documentary as well.
Posted By Anonymous Clay Wood, Schroon Lake, NY : 2:34 AM ET
I loved your show tonight on 360. It was beautifully done! These are stories that every American should see. The reality of their loss shouldn't only be known to their families and friends but to everyone so that we can understand the price we are paying for the war.

If you believe in what we are doing or not I think it's important to see the lives that are being sacraficed for our country. They deserve at least that.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Tampa, Florida : 4:30 AM ET
Thank you for such a heroic and patriotic story. It was well done and I was moved to tears at the end of your program. One person can impact so many lives, regardless of race, religion, or background and your program proved just that.

There are so many men and women who are fighting and dying for our country everyday. Our veterans that do make it home alive, don't get enough recognition from our government for all that they've endured.
Posted By Anonymous T. Montgomery, Boca Raton, FL : 6:10 AM ET

Far be it for me to blindly look into the eyes of freedom and ask how...But everything does come at a price. At what point do you look at yourself within and make some sort of sacrifice for the lives we all lead. These brave men have volunteered to serve, protect and defend. I too, think that it is a sad day when we forget who has given us the freedom that we so easily take for granted.

I am chilled when I speak to men who have stormed the beach of Normandy; who flew helicopters in VietNam. Those deaths far surpassed the numbers we are dealing with today in Iraq. We must never forget the bravery it took to defend, but we must see the accomplishments and change that is going on to have a complete understanding.

My heart breaks when I think what it would be like to have a child so far away fighting a war; praying that they come home alive, but knowing the risk involved. My heart gets even heavier, when I think of all that died on 9/11 without any knowledge of what was coming that day.

No situation is easier to swallow than the next, but as Americans we need to stand together, united and try to be strong for each other.
Posted By Anonymous Heather, Greenwich, Connecticut : 7:11 AM ET
The fact we should have never been in Iraq does not, in the least, lessen the selflessness and bravery of the Marines in this story, nor of our Armed Forces, in general all of whom have sacrificed, some to the ultimate decree, by simply doing their duty.
Posted By Anonymous Mario S. Cano, Miami, FL : 8:44 AM ET
Dear Tom,

Your post was touching. One death is always one too many, so 3000....Sometimes, I watch "This week at war" with John Roberts. When I see the segment "THe fallen", I always wonder about their lives & loved ones.They are so young! Doing a story on them is ok as long as it's done with respect. Wich you did. There are reporters(who just report), then, there are journalists, who get invested in the story. You do, Anderson does. You managed to stay true to essence of who they were. My toughts and prayers go to all soldiers around the world & to the victims of senseless violence. May their stories be heard.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R. Laval Quebec : 9:23 AM ET
I am the fiance of a Marine that has served for more than 20 years. The honor that I feel being with him is immeasurable. It is men & women like him that make our country the greatest on the planet. Thank God for those who choose to serve and protect our freedoms...where would our nation be without them? Everytime I hear that another Marine, Soldier, Airman, or Seaman has been killed my heart sinks to my knees. But if I lived under a regime like the Taliban or Saddam Hussien I would beg for an intervention from a stronger nation. The families and loved ones of those killed in war can hold thier heads high and thank you for raising a son/daughter that is willing to fight for me.

What's up with the rest of the world? Darfur is pleading for help, Serbia was begging for help...who did they turn to? The USA! So why are we being bashed for helping Iraq? It seems that we are damned if we do & damned if we don't. Either you want our help or you don't!
Posted By Anonymous Becky, Lawrenceville, GA : 9:55 AM ET

Please excuse the double posting. Your piece last night was awesome. Your writing was sensitive without being maudlin. The families obviously put their trust in you to tell their son's story and you did them proud. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 10:22 AM ET
I think this is a wonderful idea!!! We should always remember our lost soilders!
Posted By Anonymous Kim, East Meadow, NY : 10:35 AM ET
It's terrible what's happening in Iraq today. Although I'm not from the United States I miss all of them too. Things are going from bad to worse in Iraq. Each day 3 or 4 Marines die out there, and it seems that the slaughter won't stop. They must come back to the United States quickly. All of them.
Posted By Anonymous Federico Cimbaro, Buenos Aires, Argentina : 10:59 AM ET
Thank you so much for the stories of these four Marines, one of whom was my nephew. Yes, his death was tragic but we hold onto the fact that he chose to be a Marine after 9/11 and was proud to do what his country asked of him.

Whether you feel this war is right or wrong, we must honor all of our soldier's unending commitment to upholding the priciples that this country was founded upon.
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Chandler, AZ : 11:11 AM ET
Unfortunately, there are approximately 3000 stories similar yet different from the one you refer to. My brother was killed in Iraq in 2003 and he too has a story of bravery and courage that needs to be told. And you are right history will be the true judge of the rights and wrongs of this war. But it is up to each and every one of us to remember the men and women who died fighting in it. Thank you for doing your part.
Posted By Anonymous Connie Greene, St. Louis MO : 11:38 AM ET
I am completely with you on this one - we have our soldiers killed nearly EVERYDAY in Irag yet you RARELY hear about them - yet you have mountain climbers who went out and did something knowing all the risk and having the choice to do it come up missing and unfortunately one confirmed dead and look at ALL the news media they recieve - honestly it is just sickening and I think if the media can't cover each and everyone of our soldiers deaths - the others shouldn't be cover either
Posted By Anonymous Heather, BR, LA : 12:02 PM ET
Too bad IRAQ was never a threat.
Too bad we have to create fancy stories to justify invasions.

What is more important (we all have a choice):
A college education?
Refusing to fight rich people's wars?

Glorifying war and it's participants only breeds more of the same.

What would Jesus do?
Posted By Anonymous Charlie in Las Vegas : 12:05 PM ET

I'd like to sincerely thank you, Amanda and the crew for doing a wonderful job on the story. It gave me a chance to learn more about my son Karl, Chris, Jon and Jesse. I'm sure it will bring our four families closer together. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Anonymous Dick Linn, Midlothian, VA : 12:13 PM ET
That was a really amazing report. You feel like you know these men and their families. Its remarkable just how much greif connects us all. Great job, and your right, about remembering them and missing them. I've thought about them quite a few times today.
Posted By Anonymous Claire, Marquette, MI : 12:17 PM ET
Many people point to the deaths of our military members in Iraq and Afghanistan as tragic and pointless...while all death is tragic in its individual loss, these lives were not pointless, nor are they given without love and pride. Given with a promise and hope to the future, for their families and ours, for Americans and Iraqis or Afghanis, for democrats and republicans. They beg to be allowed to win, to not be handcuffed politically, they grieve not for themselves but for those who WILL die
should they fail.... my immediate family has given 48 years to the Navy and we are proud of them, love them, cheer them, support them....every day..
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Pensacola Florida : 12:31 PM ET
It was hard to look at the soldiers' eyes in your documentary last night. For the eyes reach into the soul of a person, show his life, and in many ways, we saw what he saw.

As seen in your documentary, war is not about flag waving, patriotic songs or visits from the Commander-in-chief. It can be about the mutilation of a body, the spoken fear of death to a doctor, or the pain of losing a fellow comrade. It is about the visit from a military official to a parent's home.

The coverage of the ambush by WABC was stunning yet disturbing. The reality of the war and the commentaries from the marines took my breath away.

Thank you for spotlighting four of the 3000 to talk about the humanity of their lives. The families of these fallen young men are strong and dignified about their loss of their love one.

Again, thank you for the exceptional work on this documentary.

Just a note: I watched my 19-year-old daughter say goodbye to friend being sent to Afghanistan. I wonder if she knows that she may never see him again.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 12:46 PM ET
I read this with great sadness and much trepidition. You see, my son is in the Army in Iraq right now and I often have terrible nightmares that it could have been my son instead. I will pray for these families and their incredible loss.
Posted By Anonymous Bethany Arens, Lansing, MI : 12:57 PM ET
Thank you for the coverage. The story of each of those young men was enough to make me even more grateful for the men and women serving our great country now AND those that have served in the past. I pray that God will give comfort to those families that have lost loved ones.
Posted By Anonymous Ken, Bassett, VA : 1:00 PM ET
This was without a doubt, the most telling story of the senseless deaths of our young men in a war that is sensless. I have just watched it for a second time and my feelings over "Bush's War" is an anger such as I have never felt before.

The story was beautifully told and I wept while watching it. I only wish that this story is being watched by those who voted to give Mr. Bush a blank check for a war that is destroying America's young men, both through death and through rugged readjustment to civilian life.

Thank you Anderson Cooper and CNN for this magnificent program.
Posted By Anonymous Ed Pazicky, Port Charlotte, Florida : 1:06 PM ET
Anderson and Tom,
My husband has been a United States Marine since February 1990. My husband joined the Marines as a mere child looking for a purpose in life. He served in the Gulf War bravely and he returned again for Iraqi Freedom in February 2005. He came home safely a year later. He has said before that the Marine Corps was his nitch and he was right. He has excelled in every task they have given him starting in boot camp and has gone on to groom more children into men that are now Outstanding Marines. These men do serve their country faithfully and endure long periods of hard work that no one can imagine without being a Marine. I just want to say we have a great life in the military. Being the wife of a Marine has taught me patience and dedication to my family. Most importantly, it creates a bond between the husband and wife that truly a team effort. Deployment can do wonders for a marriage!

I applaude your effort Anderson to take a picture and turn it into words by using 4 young Marines lives as a symbol for the 3000+ that may have had similar deaths and/or circumstances. These young men and women chose to serve their country because it was going to provide them with a life they have never known or really just a better one. I am in awe of them for having the courage to step into the unknown and serve for people they have never even met. They only saw 200 feet ahead and never saw the ultimate sacrifice they were undertaking. My heart hurts for everyone who loved these 4 men and the 3000 + men and women they represent. They are not heroes in death but heroes the first time they signed their contract with the United States Government. Benjamin Franklin once said " The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.." Their pursuit is our happiness and freedom. Every man and woman who serves the Armed Forces ...whatever the branch truly believe in the country for which they serve. A country where you can be Jewish and still be a Cowboy.... How great is that? A country where you can wear your hair purple and still put on a business suit and be taken seriously. A country where I only try to hide my face when I don't have any make up on. Freedom to have every lip, ear, nose and well you know pierced and work the cash register (LOOK HOW FAR WE HAVE COME in acceptance). We are free to love, to learn and to be a hero to someone who does not practice our religion. I say we all search for the hero inside us and realize we cannot change what has happened but only learn from a history of violence that will never be forgotten. Hug your kids and teach them what it feels like to be free. Teach me how to be free. Does anyone really know how?

Kira. Camp Lejeune, NC OOOHHH RAAAHHH!
Posted By Anonymous Kira. Camp Lejeune, NC OOOHHH RAAAHHH! : 1:16 PM ET
Exceptionally moving. When I returned from my 3rd tour in Vienam, I was assigned as a Casuality Notification Officer. For 18 months, I knocked on doors, looked fathers, mothers, and wives in the eyes and changed their lives forever. Finally, I was used up. I'd seen too much death and suffering. George Goodson, LtCol, USMC, Retired.
Posted By Anonymous George Goodson, Dunwoody, GA 30350 : 1:22 PM ET

I want to commend you on an excellent report on the four fallen American Heroes; Jesse Strong, Christopher Weaver, Karl Linn, and Jonathan Bowling. Their story has generated a sense of pride and appreciation never felt before for the men and women who serve and have served our country.

My heart went out to these men and their families as I watched the story of their dedication to their family, friends, faith, and country unfold. I have never felt a wave of emotion such as this, with regards to the war. As I sat in the gym, captivated by their story, I found myself, amongst others, glued to the screen. As the tears streamed down my eyes, I couldn�t help but notice others being caught up in the same wave.

War is never good for anyone, even if they do produce some good. After seeing the story of these fallen heroes, it fills me with mixed emotions. I am angry, I am sad, I am proud. It is stories like this that makes the casualties of war real, instead of just a number. I think what one of the mother�s of the fallen heroes says, best sums it all up. She says that maybe one day, an Iraqi citizen will come up to her and hug her and say thank you. Maybe this is our hope? Who knows? But I pray for resolution. I pray that the families of these four Marines will find comfort and peace. My deepest sympathies and thoughts go out to all the families who have lost a loved one in this war.

I hope and pray that this will end soon so our men and women can be reunited with their loved one again. Thanks again for a wonderful piece that illustrates the dedication and bravery of the men and women who serve in our armed forces.
Posted By Anonymous Neru Taupau, Oceanside, CA : 1:30 PM ET
Thank you for such a thoughtful and sensitive narrative. It is a sad truth that too many of our young men and women fight wars not of their making but which they feel compelled to join. We should be forever grateful to them and their sense of honor and duty. Our personal beliefs must never minimize their sacrifice.
I will always honor and remember them.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Hastings McLean, Va : 1:36 PM ET
As we embarked on this project there were many worries on my part as to how it would be presented and of what might have been added to it.

All of the things were addressed by Amanda Townsend, the producer of this peice. Every little question was answered honestly and straight forward.

The entire staff at CNN was easy to work with and very caring.

Tom Foreman, made it so easy to talk of our loss and helped ease our pain as all of the participants told the story of our loved ones.

CNN set out to tell a story to Honor all of those that have given everything they have to all of us. I am here to tell everyone, that they kept their word, they were the very definition of professionalism, and they have created a wonderful example of what "Journalism " should be.

My sincere thanks goes out to anyone at CNN, that had anything to do with this project.

Posted By Anonymous Darrell Bowling, Stuart, Virginia : 1:39 PM ET
It takes a village of idiots to send young unsuspecting good people into the crossfire of family vendettas.
Posted By Anonymous George W. from Detriot, MI : 2:19 PM ET
I honestly did not want to watch this special. I read your blog and was teary eyed just from that and I figured it would show during the second hour of 360 so I was safe. Well imagine my surprise when it aired in the first hour. I couldn't make myself change the channel and I'm so glad I didn't. Sure my eyes are still puffy today from crying but it's a story everyone should watch. It broke my heart to see those young men- all of them and their families and loved ones. God bless them for risking their lives to do their duty. Whether you support the war or not supporting our brave troops is never in question and putting faces and stories to the statistics really drives home the point of all we're losing over there. Thank you this kind of reporting. It's why I watch AC 360. I will never forget these young men and their families and pray for the brave men and women who are still serving over there and hope they all come home soon.
It would be great if you posted some organizations we could contact our servicemen and women to say thank you and let them know we are thinking about them. Thanks again for what I'm sure was a tough assignment.
Posted By Anonymous Mary Anne, Parlin, NJ : 2:27 PM ET
My son is a Marine; Thank You for showing such a beautiful piece! My son is only 20, and willing to make the sacrifice....sometimes people forget that part. They are willing, for their country, they are Americans!
Posted By Anonymous Dianna Knauss, Des Moines Iowa : 2:55 PM ET
Hi Tom,
Excellent work as usual. In my mind the only "flashpoint," the only "Top Story" of 2006 should have been our Troops. No other event is as important, in my opinion, as our men and women in service. Thank you's seem like such a small word for such a huge sacrifice, but I thank you all. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 3:53 PM ET
Thank you for sharing the story of the courageous 4 marines and the character their families have shown despite the crushing loss of their boys. Please thank them for being brave enough to share their story with the world as it touched my life and encouraged me to go on in the face of my own loss. Please let them know that their stories are reaching into people's hearts around the world with the story of hope.
Posted By Anonymous Jodi, Littleton, CO : 4:22 PM ET
A behind the scenes look at "Anderson Cooper 360°" and the stories it covers, written by Anderson Cooper and the show's correspondents and producers.

• 01/29/2006 - 02/05/2006
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• 08/19/2007 - 08/26/2007
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• 11/11/2007 - 11/18/2007
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