As Iraq war hits new milestone, families grieve

first_imgChristi Larsen misses hearing her son’s voice waft through their Canyon Country home. Bob Slocum misses his son’s smile, the window that let his soft heart shine through his tough-guy demeanor. Melanie House misses sitting next to her husband on the couch, falling asleep next to him each night and raising their 10-month-old son together. On Tuesday, the U.S. lost its 2,000th service member in the Iraq war. To their loved ones, the fallen are much more than names on a list. They’re husbands and sons, wives and daughters, They are voices that used to call from the next room and lips that used to kiss good night. “It just breaks my heart that there’s more than one,” Slocum said. “My heart’s just broken for those 2,000 families. “I’m a proud dad that my son was doing what he was doing. We’ll be forever grateful that he was out there protecting my freedom.” With thousands of soldiers still in Iraq, many parents still live in fear of that fateful knock on the door. Jerry Pennington of Van Nuys said he still remembers flipping back and forth between the Super Bowl and CNN a few years ago, when he saw that a soldier had been killed in Belat, Iraq, the town where his son, Wes, was stationed. “I went into shock,” Pennington said. “I didn’t hear from Wes for three days. Finally, he called me and told me there was a mortar attack at 3 a.m.” Army Cpl. Wes Pennington, now 27, survived the mortar attack with minor wounds and returned home from a year-long tour of duty, but he has orders to return to Iraq next month for another one-year tour. “I’m scared to death,” Jerry Pennington said. “You try not to watch TV, because you don’t want to see what’s going on. You don’t want to answer the phone. You’re constantly looking out your window for two soldiers to walk up to your front door. “It’s an ongoing fear. It never goes away.” Melanie House remembers when the soldiers came to her door last Jan. 26. She was holding her 4-week-old son when she opened her front door to find five uniformed soldiers. “There’s no need to explain why they’re there,” said House, who lost her 28-year-old husband, Petty Officer 3rd Class John D. House. “When these people come to your door, you know why they’re there. It’s every military wife’s nightmare.” In the nine months since her husband’s death, House has become an avid anti-war activist. She held a candlelight vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan in August, and she’s planning another vigil tonight in honor of the 2,000 fallen soldiers. “Two thousand isn’t just a number,” House said. “My family, my son, myself, we’ll never be the same because we lost John. It’s important to ask the question, how many more? Are we going to reach 3,000? 4,000? Who knows?” Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “We haven’t moved on, and I don’t think we ever will,” said Christi Larsen, whose 19-year-old son, Pfc. Cole Larsen, died in a vehicle accident in Baghdad on Nov. 13, 2004. “You raise your children to be strong and to be independent thinkers, and when they decide they want to join the military, you just want to wrap them up and put them in a corner and keep them safe. “My son believed in what he did. He was only 19, but he knew the risks. I support it even more now than before.” After learning of the 2,000th American death on the radio, Christi Larsen said she planned to spend her Tuesday night the same way she’s spent just about every Tuesday night for more than 10 months – in an Internet chat room, talking with the relatives of other fallen American soldiers. “Usually there are about 10 or 15 of us,” Larsen said. “There have been some newcomers lately.” Members of the Slocum family held a candlelight vigil on Monday for 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Ricky Slocum, who died in a vehicle crash near Abu Ghuraib exactly one year earlier. On Tuesday, Bob Slocum thought about the thousands of families that must endure a year like he’s had. last_img

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