Iraq Death Toll Hits Home at ABC News

One hundred U.S. troops died in Iraq in October. For many, that's a sobering statistic, but for others, it is a heartbreaking one.

One of those soldiers killed was my cousin, Nicholas Ryan Sowinski. He was only 25, and his mother's heart was broken when Army officers knocked on her door the morning of Oct. 11, to tell her that Nicholas had been killed while on patrol in his Stryker.

Nick has two younger brothers, Jared and Austin, plus grandparents, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Nick was so proud to be in the Army, proud to serve his country.

He wrote this letter and left if behind before he went to Iraq, to be read if he didn't come home alive.

Dear Everybody,

Well, if you are reading this, then I've moved on to bigger and better things. I love you all and I'm proud of what I did. Know that I died doing something I love and wanted to do, and that there's nowhere else in the world I would rather have been.

Love, Nick Sowinski

He was Sergeant "Ski" to the guys in Charlie Stryker 66, the 4th Squadron 14th Cavalry.

Nick was dearly beloved by his fellow soldiers. The letters they sent and the stories they told of Nick had us laughing and crying at his funeral earlier this month.

For Nick's family, the presence of hundreds of the Patriot Guard Riders made the funeral easier. These wonderful and kind leather-clad motorcyclists came to honor Nick, to escort his body from the airport to the funeral home, then from the funeral home to the cemetery.

They didn't know Nick before he died, but they mourned him as we mourned him, and all the other soldiers who are serving their country.

I have covered countless stories where bad things happened to good people, and I don't know how many stunned people have said, "We didn't think it would happen to us," after a flood, a hurricane, a fire or a tornado.

You need to believe the ones you love will have a protective shield around them so "it won't happen to them." I was guilty of that optimism. So, I think, is every other family with a father, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband or wife in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The statistics are this: 100 soldiers killed in Iraq in October. Some of the names that go with these statistics are Tom, Ricky, Donald, Amos, Matthew and Nicholas.

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