Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Another Iraq Casualty: Nearly 900 U.S. Kids Lost a Parent in War

The escalating toll of American dead in Iraq is causing another tragedy that cuts deeper. After studying casualty reports and obituaries and accounts in hometown newspapers, and also conducting family interviews, Scripps Howard News Service has identified nearly 900 U.S. children who have lost a parent in the war.

At least half are under the age of ten. More than 40 troops died without ever seeing their newly born children. At least 60 children lost parents last month.

Although precise comparable data is not available for other U.S. conflicts, military experts told Scripps reporters Lisa Hoffman and Annette Rainville that the number of American children left bereaved or made orphans by the Iraq war is unprecedented in scope.

It represents, as Scripps put it in a graphic, about 18 large school buses fully packed with kids.

"This is a new state of affairs we have to confront," said Charles Moskos, a leading military sociologist and a Northwestern University professor. As much as we are concerned about veterans' programs, we now have to be concerned about orphan programs. This is the first time we have crossed this threshold."

Among the parents who died, according to Scripps, were six female soldiers who had borne a total of 10 children, which Hoffman and Rainville termed another historic first for females in the U.S. military.

This lengthy report was part of a package, distributed to papers and posted at the Scripps Howard Web site, that included a separate story on the deceased mothers and last letters home from soldiers to children.

One reason for the high rate of dead parents is the reliance by the U.S. military on reserves, who tend to be older and have more children.

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