After five years of war, the U.S. death count in Iraq has surpassed 4,000 following a roadside bomb in south Baghdad that killed four American soldiers on March 23, according to the Associated Press.
With K-State being so close to Fort Riley, the realities and costs of war are close to home, said Nate Beeman, member of K-State Army ROTC.
“Obviously, it’s heartbreaking, but at the same time a lot of people feel it’s a cause worth fighting for,” he said.
Beeman, junior in electronic media, said no matter the reason for war, soldiers in Iraq find motivation because of the opportunity to give freedom to a nation.
Beeman, who might be sent to Iraq upon graduation, said every time he hears about another casualty in Iraq, he finds comfort in knowing those soldiers fought for freedom.
“It just shows that there are heroes that are there fighting for freedom,” he said. “It gives those of us [in the ROTC] something to aspire to.
“We have the common bond of wearing the same uniform. It helps a lot to know that you are fighting for a cause like freedom and that your buddy sacrificed their freedom to give someone else freedom.”
According to the Associated Press, past wars have reflected death counts much higher than the war in Iraq. In Vietnam, the U.S. lost about 4,850 soldiers a year from 1963-75. In the Korean war, from 1950-53, the U.S. lost about 12,300 soldiers a year.
Fewer soldiers have died during the Iraq war because of better training and advanced medical and battle technology to protect them.
Deb Skidmore, public relations officer at Fort Riley, said as of Wednesday, 145 Fort Riley soldiers have died in the war.
Skidmore said there is one important message Americans should get from the 4,000 death-count milestone reached Sunday.
“We need to remember that freedom isn’t free,” she said. “Whether it is four or 4,000 deaths it’s tragic when someone loses a mom and dad.”
On campus, about 4,500 yellow and red flags, each representing one U.S. soldier who has died in Iraq or Afghanistan, line the sidewalks this week.
The flags go from the K-State Student Union to the quad area between Hale Library and Waters Hall and include the name, age and hometown of each soldier.The flags are grouped together by the soldiers’ home states.
The week is organized by the K-State Alliance for Peace & Justice. The group also has been playing the audio recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”
Jeff Stilley, president of KAPJ, said the main purpose of the flags is to remind students of the human aspect of the war.
This is the second year KAPJ has had a flag memorial on the K-State campus. Last year, KAPJ put up only yellow flags representing Coalition soldiers killed in Iraq, about 3,500 flags at that time.
Edgar Martinez, sophomore in mechanical engineering, said he was shocked when he found out all the flags on campus represented deceased soldiers.
“As a student, I am just in and out of classes, and it’s hard to take time to pay such close attention to everything that is going on in the war,” he said.
“Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the war. I think we need to be over there, but the number of people we have is just ridiculous.”