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2004-03-31 - 9:44 p.m.

9 Americans were killed today in Iraq. At first glance, 9 doesn't seem like that many (though I can't seem to visualize it, even in groups of twos and threes). Aren't we at war? Isn't it normal for people to die? Even after spending more than a fifth of my life in the military, I have the film of D-Day from Saving Private Ryan running through my mind when thinking of warfare most of the time. No, 9 doesn't seem that many at all.

I read some more about it and thought about it for awhile and what caught me the most is that 4 of these 9 were American contractors. These are people that are mostly hired right after they get out of the military. They are paid to help facilitate issues such as elections, hiring a new police force, setting up schools. And of course scoping out sites for American business. Less threatening than soldiers? Some would argue no. But isn't business good for everyone? Don't Americans clamor for IKEA as much as Ethan Allen these days? And I doubt the people who killed these men were thinking of the larger ramifications of American businesses vs Iraqi economy and Iraqi jobs. They were killed because they were Americans.

I could have easily become a contractor. I chose not to look into it for a number of reasons: college, being tired of working for the government in any aspect, wanting something new. It wouldn't have been too hard to be hired and over there in Iraq right now, though. In fact, I know someone who became a contractor. He was in my platoon way back in 1998 and we were stationed in Georgia together. Sometimes we'd get coffee or beer, and study.

For all I know, he could be dead. The names haven't been released because the next of kin have not yet been notified.

For that matter, a lot of people I've been stationed with could be dead. I worked with some people who were in the infantry when I was at Fort Benning for a month. Sometimes I check the lists of casualties, but I really have no idea if a former acquaintance is one of the 597 who have lost their lives since this war started. Or one of the 9 who lost their lives today.

Suddenly 9 seems like a very large number.

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