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September 28, 2007

Bill Moyers on the fate of the authors of "The War as We Saw It"

BILL MOYERS: A final note on the war. You may remember our report last month based on the remarkably candid op-ed piece written for the New York Times by seven of our soldiers in Iraq. Putting their careers on the line, they took issue with the optimistic rhetoric of officials in Washington on the progress of the occupation. "We are militarily superior," they wrote, "but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere." And they went on to describe those failures one by one. "In the end," the soldiers said, "we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal."

But then the seven men pledged themselves anew to their duty: "As committed soldiers, they wrote, "we will see this mission through."

As they were preparing the op-ed, one of the men -- Sgt. Jeremy Murphy -- was shot in the head by a sniper. He is now in a rehab facility in Southern California, trying to recover from a severe traumatic brain injury.

Since then, two of the other co-authors of the piece -- and five comrades -- were killed when their military vehicle turned over in Baghdad.

Yance Tell Gray was 26 -- and wore his sergeant stripes proudly on his sleeve, next to the Bronze Star on his chest, and the oak leaf clusters, the Army Good conduct Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the badges indicating his service as a combat infantryman, Ranger, and paratrooper. He had won just about every honor a soldier could win, for doing just about everything a solder can do.

His wife Jessica said, he was "an amazing husband and an adoring father (who) couldn't wait to come home and be a dad to his daughter." He didn't make it. He was nearing the end of four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan when he was killed. This week he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, having given all a soldier can give.

Omar Mora enlisted in the Army because he wanted to do something in response to 9/11. He made sergeant in three years, and was shipped to Iraq. A roadside bomb damaged his hearing in April and he was sent home for two weeks. He returned to combat only to have a comrade die in his arms. Sgt. Mora had just received his citizenship papers when he and Sgt. Gray were killed. His service was held at St. Mary of the Miraculous Medal Church where he had taught Sunday School. He came to America from Ecuador with his mother when he was two years old.

I'm sure many of you've been watching Ken Burns' moving account this week of The War -- Ken's notable series recollecting the personal stories of the sacrifice made by an earlier generation of Americans caught up in the catclysm of the Second World War. But any war is The War for the soldiers who die in it -- the war they will not live to remember, or recount for their grandchildren, or revisit in the movies. For sergeants Omar Mora and Yance Gray, who fought bravely and bravely told us the truth, The War is over. I'm Bill Moyers.

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