Fifth Anniversary of Beginning of War in Iraq - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

03/19/08

Fifth Anniversary of Beginning of War in Iraq

By Monica Hernandez
monica@wlbt.net

March 19th marks the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq.  The American death toll is approaching 4,000.  And the price tag threatens to top a trillion dollars.  Dozens of people with ties to Mississippi have died in the war.  And many more in Mississippi have been affected-- directly and indirectly--over the last 5 years.

Sergeant Jesse Nicholson has served in the Mississippi National Guard for 12 years.  In 2005, he served his country in the 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry Brigade in Iraq.

"As a soldier, it gives me an understanding of how important it all is, how small of a world we live in," said Nicholson.

Men in his battalion died, and Nicholson had never been so far from home.  There were times when he was afraid, but he saw positive change, too.

"I saw women get to vote, I saw them go to school, I saw the Iraqi people. They are very caring people," said Nicholson.

Nicholson was able to return home to his baby daughter.  But others haven't been so lucky.  60 soldiers with ties to Mississippi have died since the war began.  In the Mississippi National Guard alone, 23 soldiers have given their lives in the war on terror.  Most are pictured at the National Guard headquarters in Jackson.

Army Specialist Larry K. Brown of Jackson was one of the first local solders to give his life in the war.  He died in April, 2003 as a member of C-Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment from Fort Riley, Kansas.  His former high school math teacher, Stacy Windham, remembers him well.

"It impacted a lot of families in our community, it was hard for a lot of people, a lot of his friends," said Windham.

Retired General Augustus Leon Collins commanded the 155th Brigade Combat Team in Iraq from January of 2005 until January of 2006.  He says despite the cost, length of time, and death toll, he has a positive outlook on the war.

"Things are much better than we first started, due in large part to soldiers from Mississippi," said Collins.

The most recent death of a soldier in the Mississippi National Guard occurred on Saturday. Collins said the 155th Brigade Combat Team is currently on alert to return to Iraq.

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