Families, Soldiers Feel Impact of 2,000 Casualty Mark in Iraq

ByABC News

Oct. 25, 2005 — -- Two thousand U.S. servicemen and women have now died since the invasion of Iraq two-and-a-half years ago. President Bush said today that the U.S. mission will require more sacrifice, saying the country is fighting "as brutal an enemy as we have ever faced."

But the grim milestone means little to Fred Ceo. He is focused on only one of the deaths.

"It takes a big piece out of you," he said. "And I thought we would have a lot more time together."

Ceo's youngest son, 22-year-old National Guard Spc. Bernard Ceo, died two weeks ago in Iraq.

"I'm proud of him," said Fred. "I'm proud of what he did."

Today's news is particularly painful in Brook Park, Ohio, home of the Third Battalion, 25th Regiment of the National Guard. They have lost 48 marines -- 14 all at once in a car bombing this summer.

Robert Hoffman's son, Justin, was one of them.

"These men have sacrificed," Hoffman said. "These were all volunteers that went. It's 2,000. It's too many. But it's going to cost something and it cost us. It cost my son."

For many in Brook Park, the tally of lost lives is still sinking in.

"I really didn't think we were going to lose that many people over there," said resident Emily Weber.

In this small town, it is impossible to ignore the sacrifice.

"I feel bad for the people we lost, but that's what a war's all about," said Judy Urban, another resident.

"I don't think we should have ever been there. I really don't," said Pat Wilcox. "A lot of people feel that way. Think of all the people that lost their children."

It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since Ronald Griffin lost his son in the war. For him, the names matter more than the numbers.

"I only look at the individuals," he said. "I don't think it's a significant number at all unless you think about the individuals who make it up. Who was 98? Who was 99? Who is going to be 2,001?"

For may Americans, the number keeps the war faceless and distant, but for military parents and communities like Brook Park, those numbers hit home.

For the U.S. military members in Iraq who have lost comrades, each loss is personal and painful. It is especially so for the military doctors.

"Any time a patient comes in and they are wearing this uniform, that's your brother or sister that's on that table,"said Cpt. David Mathias, a military doctor. "The hardest thing for me was a particular case where there was a patient who was a teenager, if you want to use that term. And as a pediatrician, I could have seen that person in my clinic back home, and to see someone not survive a wound here was particularly difficult. So yeah, that's the hard part."

During his yearlong deployment in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli lost 169 soldiers.

"It's something you never get used to," he said. "It's an enormous responsibility."

For Chiarelli, a father of three, the hardest part was coming back home and meeting the families of those who died.

"You can't help but think about that when you have three kids," he said. "You love your three children, and with the death of any of our soldiers you can't help, at least I can't help, to make the comparison of what would it feel like if it was one of my kids."

The very first day he took command, Lt. Col. Gary Volesky lost eight soldiers.

"I'll carry that with me for the rest of my time," he said. "I mean, I'll sit back and talk about it and say, 'How could I have prevented that loss?' But you know that you have 650 soldiers that are relying on you to do the right thing and that if you don't focus, this may not be the end of it."

Volesky went right back into battle that day, just as the 150,000 servicemen and women still in Iraq did today and will do again tomorrow.

ABC News' Barbara Pinto and Martha Raddatz filed this report for "World News Tonight."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events