WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq reached more than 2,000 today, U.S. Senator Harry Reid honored the memory and service of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid spoke of the 13 Nevadans who were killed in Iraq.
Remarks as prepared:
“Regrettably today, we have reached a solemn milestone in Iraq: 2000 U.S. troops killed. There has been, and will continue to be, heated debates about our involvement in Iraq, about the flawed pre-war intelligence, the selling of the war by Administration officials, the poor planning and the ideologically driven attempt by the President and others to reshape the Middle East through the force of arms.
“These debates will go on, and they should. But today, I think it is appropriate to set the debates aside and reflect on this solemn marker we have reached, so that we can pay tribute to the heroic service and ultimate sacrifice that each of these 2000 brave Americans made to our nation.
“A few months ago, I was able to spend time with dozens of Nevadans serving in Iraq. Anyone of us who travels to the region and meets with U.S. troops comes back so impressed and so proud of men and women who serve our country.
“Many are young, just out of high school, and this is their first time out of the country. Others are more senior, having served in the First Gulf War or in Afghanistan. Most were given short notice, year-long deployments, and were serving away from family, children, spouses, parents and friends.
“The Nevada Guard unit that I spent time with was tasked with transporting critical supplies from Kuwait, through Iraq and into Baghdad to support combat forces. These were dangerous missions, carried out with the real possibility of an attack by Iraqi insurgents.
“I also met with young marines from Nevada who were assigned to protect U.S. facilities in the fortified Green Zone. Eager, enthusiastic, and with a great sense of sprit – these young men took great pride in their duties. And we took great pride in them.
“But there can be no question that the effort in Iraq has taken a huge toll on Americans, and on Nevadans.
“So far, 13 Nevadans have died in this conflict. But the number 13 does not tell the whole story. I would like to take a moment to tell you a little about each of these 13 Nevadans:
“Marine Lance Corporal Donald Cline, Jr. of Sparks was the first Nevada soldier to die in Iraq. During the initial invasion of Southern Iraq, Lance Corporal Cline was killed in combat while assisting injured soldiers on March 23, 2003. He left behind a wife and two sons, Dakota and Dylan.
“Marine First Lieutenant Frederick Pokorney of Nye was killed in action on March 23, 2003. He left behind a wife and a 3-year old daughter. Lieutenant Pokorney was the first Marine from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
“Sergeant Eric Morris of Sparks was only six weeks into his tour of duty when he was killed by a homemade bomb on April 28, 2003. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his bravery.
“Marine Corporal William I. Salazar of Las Vegas was killed on October 15, 2004 in a suicide bomb attack. Corporal Salazar was the first Marine combat photographer to be killed in action in more than 35 years. He died on his father’s birthday.
“Marine Private First Class John Lukac of Las Vegas was killed on October 30, 2004 when his convoy was attacked. The son of immigrants who escaped Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, Private Lukac had been interested in joining the Marines since the age of 12.
“Lance Corporal Nicholas Anderson of Las Vegas died on November 12, 2004. It had only been one year since he graduated from Bonanza High School.
“Army Private First Class Daniel Guastaferro of Las Vegas was determined to join the Army, despite suffering a snowboarding injury that left him with a steel plate in his arm. Private Guastaferro died on January 7, 2005. He was 27 years old.
“Marine Lance Corporal Richard A. Perez, Jr. of Las Vegas died on February 10, 2005. Lance Corporal Perez enlisted in the Marines shortly after his graduation from Coronado High School and volunteered to go to Iraq. He died only 10 days before he was supposed to return home.
“Corporal Stanley Lapinski died on June 11, 2005 from injuries sustained in a roadside explosion. After college, he worked at several jobs, finally winding up at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. September 11th prompted him to join the Army. The 37-year old was known in his unit as “Pops.”
“Marine Corporal Jesse Jaime of Henderson was killed on June 15, 2005 when the vehicle he was riding in hit an explosive device. The 22-year old had followed his twin brother’s footsteps by enlisting in the Marines.
“Specialist Anthony S. Cometa of Las Vegas was killed on June 16. He was a member of the 1864th Transportation Company, which I met with when I visited Kuwait and Iraq. Specialist Cometa was the first Nevada Army National Guard soldier to die in Iraq. He died just one day after his 21st birthday.
“Second Lieutenant James J. Cathey of Reno was killed by a roadside bomb on August 21, 2005. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 2004, he headed to Quantico, VA for officer training. Known as “Cat,” Specialist Cathey and his wife had just found out they were going to have their first child before he left for Iraq.
“Specialist Joseph Martinez of Las Vegas was killed on August 27, 2005. He was killed in combat while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. His mother said he always wanted to be a soldier.
“To all of these Nevada families, and to the families of all 2,000 U.S. troops who have fallen in Iraq, our nation will forever be in debt to you. Your sons and daughters are heroes, and their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”