MARLA RUZICKA: We're working on developing a proposal with him.
JEFFREY BROWN: Marla Ruzicka was an unusual presence in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq...
MARLA RUZICKA: We'll try as soon as we can to help you get your information.
JEFFREY BROWN: ...Where she would visit bereaved or injured civilians. Since the Pentagon said it wasn't keeping track of civilian casualties, Ruzicka decided she would, and the young activist from Northern California formed her own non-profit organization called CIVIC, The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.
MARLA RUZICKA: I, for one, was not expecting that there would be this many civilian casualties.
JEFFREY BROWN: She was, by all accounts, an irrepressible one-woman operation. In Afghanistan, for example, she conducted field operations and counted some 2,000 families whose relatives had been wounded accidentally during U.S. military operations. She explained why she did her work in this 2002 interview on National Public Radio.
MARLA RUZICKA: In war innocent civilians shouldn't be hurt. It happens. Now we have to see what you do to help the families that were hurt.
JEFFREY BROWN: After American forces took Iraq, Ruzicka went door-to-door and visited hospitals.
MARLA RUZICKA: Does Haider understand? I mean, does he miss his mommy?
JEFFREY BROWN: She successfully lobbied Congress to appropriate nearly $30 million in compensation for families in the two countries. And she tried to put a human face on the statistics.
MARLA RUZICKA: Yes, a number, it is important. But it's not as important as making sure that we recognize each number is a human life. Ultimately, what we can do is we can get them long-term medical care; we can get their homes rebuilt and possibly-- it's a hard possibility -- but we're working for some economic assistance. Each number represents a case, represents a need, represents a father, a mother, a loss of life.
JEFFREY BROWN: Last month, 28-year-old Ruzicka returned to Baghdad to work on another set of statistics: Civilians caught in the crossfire of the ongoing insurgency.
MARLA RUZICKA: It takes time. That's why we can't give you a number today or tomorrow. But in a few months, we're confident that after doing exhaustive surveying we'll be able to answer more of those questions.
JEFFREY BROWN: But on Saturday, she herself became a casualty of the insurgent war. She was killed along with her longtime Iraqi aide, Faiz ali Salim, in a suicide car bombing apparently aimed at a convoy of security contractors near their vehicle. They were traveling the airport road in Baghdad to visit an injured Iraqi child.