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Families of US Military Casualties in Iraq Given Help to Ease Pain - 2004-04-08


The increased fighting in Iraq has led to larger numbers of casualties among U.S. forces deployed there. Military personnel back home are doing what they can to ease the pain of family members whose loved ones have either been killed or wounded in combat.

The intense fighting in Iraq over the past several days has taken a deadly toll on U.S. forces, and it has also taken an emotional toll on family members in places like the U.S. Marine base at Camp Pendleton, California and the U.S. Army base at Fort Hood, here in Texas.

This week, family members at Fort Hood learned that eight soldiers from the base had been killed and more than 40 had been wounded in Iraq. They were assigned to the First Cavalry Division, which was deployed to Iraq about a month ago.

At Fort Hood Thursday, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Forrester told reporters that grief counselors, community volunteers and clergy have trained for the role they now play in assisting families of fallen soldiers.

"I am not sure you ever can prepare anybody for an event like this when it happens," he said. "What you have to fall back on is the training you have received over the years, especially in the last six months, that we have accomplished here. I think, based on the actions that I have observed as rear detachment commander over the past week, we have done a good job of training those support groups and having the support structure in place to deal with a situation like this."

Fort Hood is involved in the current rotation of troops to and from U.S. bases. Over the past several weeks, thousands of troops who finished tours in Iraq have come back to Fort Hood, while other units from the fort have gone to Iraq to begin one-year tours of duty.

On Tuesday, First Lady Laura Bush went to the home of one of the Fort Hood soldiers killed in action, Specialist Robert Arsiaga, a 25-year-old soldier from Greenwood, Texas, which is near the city of Midland, where Mrs. Bush was visiting her family.

President Bush plans to spend this coming Sunday, when many Christians in the United States, will be celebrating Easter, with troops at Fort Hood, which is about 40 kilometers south of the president's ranch near Crawford, Texas.

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