Four years later, Texas soldiers are still dying in Iraq.
CONFLICTS END, countries rebuild, diplomacy resumes, politics dissipate—but lives lost are lost forever. Since the first coalition forces set foot in Iraq four years ago this month, more than 275 Texans have been killed in action, the highest number from any state other than California, and each one has left behind not just a family but a community. However history regards their commander in chief (see “The Test of Time,”), the only appropriate response to a death on the battlefield is a salute to the fallen hero’s sacrifice and grief for his promise cut short. The Houston Chronicle obituary of Dustin R. Donica, a 22-year-old Army specialist from Spring, said simply that he “passed away on Thursday, December 28, in 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq.” What it did not say was that he was killed by a sniper during combat and that he was the 3,000th U.S. serviceman to die during the war. Donica’s family has made a point of deflecting attention from this milestone, saying that every other casualty has been no less tragic. As a result, very little is known about Donica other than the fact that he played soccer for his high school team, the Klein Bearkats; that he was enrolled at the University of Texas when he enlisted, in December 2003; and that his friends called him Double D. They are joined in mourning his untimely end by all of us; he goes to his final resting place, alongside the 2,999 who died before him and the nearly 100 others who’ve died since, with the deep admiration and profound regret of a grateful state and nation.