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by Nicole Carvalho, staff writer

These people are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters serving our country overseas. We read about them in the paper, we see their pictures on the news and think to ourselves sad, another life claimed, taken so prematurely, and arguably, unnecessarily.

We rely on the media to tell the stories from the front lines. The media also reports the tragedies and deaths as a result of the war in Iraq.

October 2006 has been the deadliest month for attacks on U.S. troops, with 103 deaths reported, according to The Associated Press.

We in Hawai‘i have not escaped. We have lost many of our own, including eight Hawai‘i-based Marines and five Schofield Barracks soldiers with the 25th Infantry Regiment.

The Honolulu Advertiser reporter William Cole, 47, spends much of his day catching up with the troops who are fighting and the families of the deceased.

He talks to families from all over the country at, for many, the most difficult times in their lives.
He has experienced tragedy through these people and told stories of their fallen heroes.

Not bad for someone who knew nothing about the military when he was assigned the section after one year of reporting at the respective paper.

He said he had a lot to learn and called it, “at the time, a big adjustment.”

Obviously, he made the adjustment because in 2004 The Advertiser decided to send him and photographer Richard Ambo with the troops to Iraq.

The Advertiser has been, thus far, the only news organization in Hawai‘i to send reporters and photographers to Iraq, because of the risk involved. Sending someone to Iraq is a huge undertaking, financial and otherwise.

Since January of 2004, Cole has been to Iraq twice and Afghanistan, once. In 2004, he traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks and in the summer of 2005, he went back to Iraq with the Hawai‘i National Guard.

He is an embedded reporter living with and traveling with U.S. troops. Cole recalled sleeping in the dirt, alongside Humvees and spoke of living in an old Iraqi bakery, where he slept next to a huge conveyer belt oven. Cole, all the while, kept in mind that the troops were risking their lives and keeping up the morale of the unit. They deserved to have their stories told.

“ The morale of the troops in 2004 and 2005 was for the most part very good,” he said. “Soldiers join the Army for different reasons, but camaraderie, looking out for your buddies and friendships within the units are the main thing that sustains them.”

He described firefights and Humvee accidents and said the closest he came to being injured was in the summer of 2005 while in Iraq with the Hawai‘i National Guard.

It happened while he was in a convoy, a couple of hundred yards away from “Route Irish,” the stretch of highway from the Baghdad airport to the “Green Zone.” This seven-mile stretch of road has been called the most dangerous road in the world.

It was there, that he saw billowing smoke and was witness to a suicide bomber. By the time they got to the scene, the car was completely gone and there was just a hole left in the ground and car parts scattered around.

The suicide bomber incinerated the van next to them and all that was left was the remnant of three charred corpses.

Since the beginning of the war in 2003, he has seen, heard, and reported on many deaths, and adds that he tries to write a story about every service member that has been killed. He does this by contacting the families.

“ Putting together a story about their son or daughter provides a record of their life and the supreme sacrifice that they made,” he said.

Cole also said that he is “continually astounded that they have the patience and desire to be bothered by the media.”

“ The parents understand and are willing to take the time to talk about their son or daughter so the public understands,” Cole said.



Honolulu Advertiser Reporter William Cole with photographer Richard Ambo in Iraq with U.S. troops.

Courtesy William Cole

 

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