Tiger Woods started today’s round with a double bogey. He was just struggling. Not making up any ground. As a matter of fact, he was losing ground. He was 5 strokes begin the leader when he was on 13. Then out of nowhere, magic.
Sgt. Anthony G. Jones, fresh off the plane from Iraq and an impish grin on his face, sauntered unannounced into his wife’s hospital room in Georgia just hours after she had given birth to their second son.
For two joyous weeks in May, Sergeant Jones cooed over their baby and showered attention on his wife. But he also took care of unfinished business, selling his pickup truck to retire a loan, paying off bills, calling on family and friends.
“I want to live this week like it is my last,” he told his wife.
Three weeks later, on June 14, Sergeant Jones was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on his third tour in a war that is not yet three years old. He was 25.
“It was like he knew he wouldn’t come back,” said his grandmother, Ima Lee Jones, who buried Sergeant Jones beside towering oaks near her home in Sumter, S.C. “He told me, ‘Grandma, the chances of going over a third time and coming back alive are almost nil. I’ve known too many who have died.’ ”
Sergeant Jones’s tale may be unusual in its heartbreaking juxtaposition of birth and death, but it has become increasingly common among the war dead in one important way: one in five of the troops who have been killed were in their second, third, fourth or fifth tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of those service members returned voluntarily to war because they burned with conviction in the rightness of the mission. Others were driven by powerful loyalty to units and friends. For some it was simply their job.
But as the nation pays grim tribute today to the 2,000 service members killed in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, their collective stories describe the painful stresses and recurring strains that an extended conflict, with all its demands for multiple tours, is placing on families, towns and the military itself as they struggle to console the living while burying the dead. (more…)