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Casualties Take Heavy Toll on Colorado Military Post

Tom Bearden reports on how soldiers at Fort Carson in Colorado are coping with rising casualties from among their ranks, first from the Iraq war and now from Afghanistan.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally tonight: An Army post in Colorado copes with casualties, first from the Iraq war, and now from Afghanistan. "NewsHour" correspondent Tom Bearden reports.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Earlier this week, soldiers at Fort Carson, Colorado, gathered for what has become an all-too-frequent ceremony, remembering those who have been killed during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • MAJ. DANIEL CHANDLER, U.S. Army:

    Today, we honored six brave soldiers who were fighting in Afghanistan. All of these soldiers joined the military after the attacks on 9/11. They joined because they wanted to serve their country.

  • MAN:

    Aim. Fire.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    The wars have inflicted a particularly heavy toll on units stationed at Fort Carson. Since the fighting began in 2002, 279 soldiers from the Mountain Post have been killed. Most have been in Iraq.

    But more and more troops from here are being redirected to Afghanistan, and the death toll from that conflict is beginning to mount.

    First Lieutenant Tyler Parten, a West Point graduate from Greensboro, Arkansas, was killed on September 10, when insurgents attacked his unit with grenades and small-arms fire.

    His mother said she knew from the beginning of his deployment that she might have to face this day.

    LONA PARTEN, mother of fallen soldier: He told me of his assignment and what he was going to be doing. He was going to be in the front, fast reaction. He was a scout. And I remember looking at him, going: "Son, you're a 1st lieutenant. You know, you don't have to go — you don't have to — you know, don't go first."

    And he said, "Mom, they're not going to follow me if I don't go first."

    And I knew then — I knew then there was a chance he wasn't going to come back, because Tyler was the kind that would always step in front of anything and charge like a bull in anything that he believed in.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Fort Carson and the nearby civilian communities suffered an unusually large loss earlier this month, when eight soldiers were killed in a single firefight at a remote outpost in the Nuristan Province.

    Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Tom Roeder.

  • TOM ROEDER, Colorado Springs Gazette:

    And that was a real body blow to this city. You talked to people on the streets, everybody wanted to know how they could help these families. You know, talking to anybody around town, and you run into this emotion of — just this sense of loss was huge.

    I don't think people were prepared for — for this kind of duration or the sacrifice that this town has had to give. And you watch these families who are deploying for the third or fourth time, the spouse, and it's really taken a punishing toll.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    But commanders at Fort Carson say the casualties haven't affected morale.

    Major David Meyer.

  • MAJ. DAVID MEYER, U.S. Army:

    One of the things that comes with the experience of, you know, six years in Iraq and eight years in Afghanistan, is, we all — we have all lost somebody. Everyone has lost a friend.

    So, it doesn't make it easier. You certainly empathize with the families. But it gives you focus. It reminds you that what we're doing every day is not for play. It is deadly serious. So, we mourn the loss of those soldiers and — and we grieve for their families. But, in a lot of ways, it helps focus what we're doing, because we're reminded that the stakes are so high.