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Fallen Heroes of the Iraq War

Aired October 30, 2006 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, American heroes of the Army and Navy, Air Force, Marines, heroes around the world, many who made the greatest sacrifice for their country. Tonight, we honor all American heroes past, present and future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the best motivations that I got throughout the whole time I was in Iraq is just getting -- getting presents, getting letters from you guys. And I would sit there and read them for hours.


GRACE: Good evening, everybody. On this Thanksgiving evening, I`m Nancy Grace. Thank you for being with us tonight. Heroes in the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, past and present. Tonight, we take a look at what they and their families Stateside are living through.

First out to investigative journalist Art Harris, who actually traveled embedded. What is it like over there, Art?

ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Nancy, when I was there during the war, it was -- well, a novel and scary and exhilarating experience. And these are kids who are 18, 19, 20, 21, and you are dependent on them. You`re eating MREs with them, sleeping on the dirt. I mean, this is a -- it`s something that -- that really -- you know, it warms your heart to think that these are kids who are not much older than my sons, and they were keeping me alive and others around me and each other.

GRACE: First out tonight to the mother of Joe Tomci. Joe lost his life in August of 2006. With us tonight, his stepmother, Suzy (ph) Tomci. Ma`am, thank you for being with us.


GRACE: What can you tell us about Joe?

TOMCI: Oh, he was a wonderful young man. He was so full of life. He would just lighten up a room. Just his presence was just wonderful. He was a fun-filled, laid-back young man. Oh, I just -- I`m sorry. I`m at a loss for words, so -- he was loved by many people. He was an inspiration for his friends, for his family, and also for the children at Fish Creek (ph) Elementary School, who were his dear penpals over in Iraq.

GRACE: Well, speaking of that, joining us is Stacy Piatt. She`s a teacher at Fish Creek Elementary School, had all her students writing letters to Joe Tomci in Iraq. Also with us, a student there, little Sadie Norton (ph). She`s just 10 years old. There she is. I believe she`s -- does she have her dog with her? She was a penpal with a fallen hero, Marine Corporal Joe Tomci.

Ladies, thank you for being with us. To you, teacher, Tracy Piatt. What prompted you to pick out Joe Tomci? And how did you get your students to write?

TRACY PIATT, TEACHER: Joe`s father, John (ph), worked with me together. I have a garden outside my classroom at Fish Creek school, and he worked with me over the years. And when Joe went over to Iraq, he asked if I would be interested in having my students write him a letter. And I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for Joe to get word from home and to let him know that people cared about him, but also a wonderful opportunity for my students to learn more about their country and -- and to meet this young Marine.

GRACE: And how did the project work? How did you get letters to Iraq?

PIATT: The children wrote letters and made cards, and we would put them together in a big envelope and mail them through the USO.

GRACE: Take a listen to this little student.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we sent toys (INAUDIBLE) frisbees, footballs, baseballs, pretty much anything they would enjoy. They`re helping our country (ph) (INAUDIBLE) everyone who lives here. Without them, we probably wouldn`t be able to come to school and this wouldn`t be happening right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just wanted to, like, make them really happy because he`s really (INAUDIBLE) happy because they`re away from home and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the best motivations that I got throughout the whole time I was in Iraq is just getting -- getting presents, getting letters from you guys. And I would sit there and read them for hours.


GRACE: Back out to the teacher joining us who launched a letter- writing campaign to a fallen hero, Joe Tomci. Out to Sadie Norton and to Tracy Piatt. Tracy, did you get to ever meet him? I take it you did. And what was that like?

PIATT: Yes. The first year that we wrote to him, he came back on leave in August after that year. So then my students were 3rd graders, so I gathered them together and we met in my classroom, and Joe and his father came to meet them. It was the most unbelievable moment ever when he walked in that room, to see those children, their faces. Their hero had just walked into the room, and they just stared at him with such awe and admiration. It was beautiful.

GRACE: You`re seeing (ph) the video that she`s describing right now, fallen hero meeting little school children, who then launched a campaign to let him know he was loved and missed.

How long did your letter-writing campaign go on?

PIATT: We wrote to him for two years.

GRACE: Wow. That`s a long time. Did he actually write back?

PIATT: He did. He would send letters through his father, and then John would bring them into the classroom and read them to us. And then whenever they got to talk on the phone, because sometimes they talked by satellite, he would send a message and John would come in and tell the kids what he had to say.

GRACE: How did they talk by satellite?

PIATT: I mean, it was a phone hook-up through the Marines that they had.

GRACE: And when his father would come and read you the letters in class, what would he say?

PIATT: He would tell the children how much he appreciated them writing and how much fun he had at opening the packages because every few months, we`d send boxes and boxes of things for him. And he talked about how they uplifted him and helped him get through some really hard times.

GRACE: What would you put in the boxes?

PIATT: Oh, the children brought -- they went shopping and they would get gum and candy and snacks and cookies, little nerf footballs, calling cards so he could call friends at home, those portable cameras, so he could take pictures, just anything and everything. One little boy brought in those little plastic Army men so that he could have those. Just the things they thought of was really touching.

GRACE: I want to go out to our littlest guest tonight. Joining us is Sadie Norton, student at Fish Creek elementary, who was a penpal with the fallen hero, one of whom we are honoring tonight, Joseph Tomci. Sadie, I see you have your little dog with you. What is its name?


GRACE: Brian. And what is that it`s wearing?

NORTON: He is wearing his Marine uniform.

GRACE: His Marine uniform?


GRACE: Why did you dress him up like a Marine?

NORTON: Because I named him after a wounded soldier in a Maryland (ph) hospital, and so I decided to dress him up like he`s just got promoted because that`s sometimes happier than (INAUDIBLE) the field and you`re in danger pretty much.

GRACE: Joining Sadie there is teacher Tracy Piatt. And you know what? Ms. Piatt, from all of our staff, I can`t tell you how much we appreciate your idea and what you did for Joe and -- and to sweet little Sadie -- before I say another word, I just want to thank you, ladies, for being with us, including your dog.

Back out to Suzy Tomci. This is Joe Tomci`s stepmom. When did Joe decide to join the Marines?

TOMCI: He decided to join the Marines prior to graduating from high school.

GRACE: Why? Why did he want to join the Marines specifically?

TOMCI: He felt this was something he needed to do personally. He looked upon 9/11 as his war, his generation`s war, and he just felt that something needed to be done. And he was very committed to this. So he joined the Marines and he left (INAUDIBLE) Camp Lejeune in September of 2003. He`d just graduated from high school June of 2003. And he just felt like this was something that he needed to do, that he wanted to be a Marine and that he had the skills and leadership to lead others.

GRACE: When did he get shipped to Iraq?

TOMCI: The first time he went to Iraq was April -- excuse me -- January of 2005. And he was there through August 13, 2005.

GRACE: I am looking now at a beautiful, beautiful scrapbook that you have sent to us. It`s "In loving memory of our hero, Corporal Joe Tomci, from your proud Fish Creek friends and penpals." And I just want to show our friends at home this, "Our hero, we miss you." There`s one letter after the next after the next after the next. "Thank you for being brave. I never met you, but you taught me to stand up for what I believe."

TOMCI: It`s a beautiful book, isn`t it.

GRACE: I -- is this any comfort to you...

TOMCI: Oh, yes, it is!

GRACE: ... to you and his family?

TOMCI: Yes, it is. That is so valuable and so precious to us because that just reminds me of all the love that went back and forth from Joe to the children and from the children to Joe and how much he meant to them and how much they meant to him and them to him -- I`m sorry!

GRACE: I`m just reading one headline after the next. And here is the school one of them has drawn, and far, far away, it says, "U.S. Marine Corps Joe," and somebody`s drawn him and the letters are -- really touch the heart. It says, "Marine`s death in Iraq sends jolt across Stow (ph). Marine`s death a loss for his small pals." It goes on and on. And I think, to me, the single most touching is one of the children that drew our American flag. Let`s see, it`s Ian Fini (ph) who drew the American flag, carefully numbering all of his 50 stars up in the top left corner.

Tell me, how many tours did he do, Suzy?

TOMCI: Two. It was in the second tour. He left March the 6th of 2006, this year, and then he was killed August 2, 2006. He was due to come home in September.

GRACE: That was what, just two -- just two months away, he was set to come home?

TOMCI: Yes, that is correct. In fact, the rest of his troops returned home on September the 30th from Iraq.

GRACE: We were showing the funeral procession for Joe Tomci, an American hero. In case a lot of you may be watching the new show about heroes, here`s a real hero, Joseph A. Tomci.

To Ms. Tomci, Joe`s stepmother. Did he have to go back for a second tour? Was it required? Did he volunteer? Why did he have to go back?

TOMCI: His troops was being sent back to Iraq.

GRACE: Yes, and I bet that was hard after being home for a while.

TOMCI: Yes, but Joe looked at it as just a typical job. You know, this is a job that is given to you and you do your job, just like you would -- someone give you a job, you`d say, OK, you know? You just do it.

GRACE: What happened -- why did it have to be Joe? What happened to him?

TOMCI: Oh, he was returning back to the base on August the 2nd, after they were doing a night mission. And they were very close to returning -- making it to the base, and from what I understand, there was a very dangerous intersection. They were on foot. And Joe had made it across the intersection, and then he was leading the rest of (INAUDIBLE) men, waving to them to come on over, when a roadside bomb went off. And it killed him.

GRACE: Do you recall when you got that phone call?

TOMCI: Well, what had happened, his father was home that August morning when his older son, Jason (ph), came to the house and knocked on the front door, which John thought very odd because usually Jason just comes in the back door. When he looked out the window, there was two Marine soldiers that had accompanied Jason over to the house, and that -- at that time, John knew that his son had been killed.

GRACE: Joining us tonight is a special guest. This is Joe Tomci, American hero`s, stepmother, Suzy, and Tracy Piatt, a teacher at Fish Creek Elementary School, who had her students writing him, comforting him across the miles, and little Sadie Norton, just 10 years old, who loved Joe Tomci from far, far away.


GRACE: Welcome back. We remember and we honor American heroes. At this moment, we remember Staff Sergeant Marco Antonio Silva, just 27 years old, killed March 13, 2006, near Ramadi, Iraq. Joining us, his father, Fernando, and his sister, Rachel.

To both of you. Thank you for being with us.



GRACE: What a fine-looking young man. What can you tell me? Did he go by Marco, I believe, right?

RACHEL SILVA: Yes, he did.


GRACE: What was he like, Fernando?

FERNANDO SILVA: He was a great kid. He enjoyed playing and having fun all the time.

GRACE: Oh, there he is on a motorcycle. What was -- that`s huge!


GRACE: What is that?

FERNANDO SILVA: That`s a Harley-Davidson.

GRACE: So tell me about him growing up. How did he decide to enter the military?

FERNANDO SILVA: Actually, he really -- at first, he didn`t -- he wasn`t anxious into going into the military. But then he went to see my other daughter, Gloria (ph), in North Carolina, and her husband introduced him into the military. And he liked it, and from then -- from there, he came back and he said, Dad, I`m going into the military.

GRACE: Mr. Silva, what do you have?

FERNANDO SILVA: I have the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star that he - - that he was given after his death.

GRACE: And Mr. Silva, where do you keep those?

FERNANDO SILVA: I keep them under the -- right next to the flag they gave us after the funeral. I also keep his uniform. They gave me a uniform with all his medals and his harp (ph) and those are my memories (ph) of a son that I didn`t think he was -- I had to bury.

GRACE: Let`s stop to remember Marine Lance Corporal Ryan E. Miller, just 21, Ohio, killed in Anbar province, Iraq, by a roadside bomb, Miller on his second tour of duty, a huge Minnesota Vikings and Ohio State Buckeye fan. This man loved the Marines. Ryan Miller, American hero.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What her family remembers most about 2nd Lieutenant Emily Perez (ph) is her smile. Her parents now mourn the little girl who became for a short while a young commander leading troops in Iraq. Last month, 23-year-old Emily became the first West Point female graduate to die in Iraq.


GRACE: Tonight, American heroes of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, heroes around the world, many of whom have made the greatest sacrifice for their country. One of them, Marco Antonio Silva. Tonight, his father and sister with us.

To his sister, Rachel. Rachel, when he went back, it`s my understanding -- was this his second tour of duty?

RACHEL SILVA: Yes. Yes, it was.

GRACE: How did you feel when he had to go back for that second tour?

RACHEL SILVA: I think he was a little nervous about it, but you know, it was his job, so he just took it as best as he could.

GRACE: To Mr. Silva. What happened to Marco?

FERNANDO SILVA: I really don`t know and I haven`t gotten the whole thing. I don`t think I want to get the whole thing of exactly what happened.

GRACE: What were you told?

FERNANDO SILVA: I was told that he was ambushed and he got shot through the side of the -- his vest. That`s all I have.

GRACE: To Art Harris, investigative journalist embedded there in Iraq with the Marines. It`s my understanding his patrol came under small arms fire and there was an improvised bomb. You were there in the area, Art. What was it like?

HARRIS: Nancy, when I was there in Nasiriyah, this was a place that was a town the Marines were ordered to hold so the main force could go around to Baghdad. And there were thousands of Fedayeen, and we went down an area called "ambush alley" under fire, and the Fedayeen -- they were using women and children as human shields. And these kids, Nancy, they didn`t know how to respond. But you know, their -- their duty to each other was to -- to keep each other alive. And that`s why they were -- they were -- they were there fighting for their friends and for their country. And people don`t understand the bond that Marine have, but if you see it firsthand, you`ll understand it.

GRACE: One of those Marines that gave his life, Marco Antonio Silva, along with many other American boys and girls who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Tonight, we remember Army Sergeant Ralph Porras, 36, Michigan. The 9/11 terror attacks made Porras join the Army`s 82nd Airborne. He made it in just under the age limit of 34. He sustained fatal injuries from mortar fire on combat (ph) control (ph) about 10 miles south of Baghdad. His Army chaplain said he was smiling and big-hearted. Porras, American hero.


GRACE: As battle seems to rage all around the world and debates go on, raging on Capitol Hill, we stop to remember our American heroes, heroes of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their country.

Marine Sergeant Kelley Courtney lost his life October 20, 2004, from my hometown of Macon, Georgia. Joining us tonight, his mom, Gina Courtney.

Ms. Courtney, thank you for being with us.


GRACE: What can you tell me about your son?

COURTNEY: Well, Kelley was a very fine man. He was a family man. He loved his family as much as anybody ever could. He was a Marine. He and his brother, Donny, and their friend, Mark, joined the Marines in 1998.

He was proud of being a Marine, and he was sent to Iraq in August of 2004. And he and seven other Marines were killed on October 30, 2004.

GRACE: Ms. Courtney, I understand he was a counterintelligence soldier with the Third Marine Expeditionary Force. What was he doing?

COURTNEY: Kelley was a counterintelligence specialist with the Marines. He was there gathering information about the insurgents and their stronghold in the Fallujah area of Iraq. He was assisting the battalion from Hawaii in gathering information. It was a very dangerous area where they were going in on the mission. Nobody had gone in that area in quite a while, and we had gotten an e-mail from him a week before he was killed, letting us know that he loved us, to stay in touch with one another, talk with one another, and he would e-mail us as soon as he returned. So we had no contact with him during that week of his mission.

GRACE: And the night before, you were actually watching the news, and you heard about a bombing near Fallujah, correct?

COURTNEY: That`s right. Cindy and Kellie Marie and Logan were in Okinawa. And we were talking on the e-mail back and forth that Saturday evening, and we were anxiously waiting for Kelley to e-mail us to let us know he had returned back to camp safely.

And it was at the same time of the 7:00 news, and I was talking with Cindy by e-mail on the computer and also looking at the news on the TV. And I just glanced at the first broadcast of a bombing there in Fallujah, and Cindy had seen it at the same time. So we e-mailed back and forth to each other that we were both very scared and very worried for Kelley, but we were going to keep praying and just wait until we were able to talk with him in a few hours, either that night or the next day, Sunday.

GRACE: When did you hear?

COURTNEY: We were just waiting to hear from him. And I just went in and looked out the window and hadn`t heard anything, just went and looked out the window, and I saw a government issue vehicle with young men sitting in the front seat with a camouflage hat on. And a totally surreal feeling, it was out of place. And I thought, "What is that? What is that in our driveway?"

And I went to the kitchen door that goes into the garage, and that`s when I saw the two uniformed Marine officers coming up to the door. And I screamed for my husband, Bob, to come. And it was at that time that they told us that Kelley had been killed.

GRACE: I was reading about his wife, Cindy, and I read that she got a crush on him when she was just 8 years old. Is that true?

COURTNEY: Yes, they were in grammar school together, elementary school, went through high school together. They all went to Heard School. You may have gone to Heard yourself.

GRACE: Dr. John H. Heard...

COURTNEY: Dr. John H. Heard.

GRACE: ... Elementary School.

COURTNEY: So they met there in elementary school, and they more or less grew up together. And when he joined the Marines, they were married, and they had Kellie Marie, who is now 6, and Robert Logan, who is now 3.

GRACE: Ma`am, about the little children, Kellie Marie and Logan, can they take in what happened to their dad? I mean, I read extensively about your son, and I know that Kelley`s remains had to be shipped home to you in two separate shippings.

COURTNEY: We had two separate funerals for Kelley. Kelley and the other seven Marines were in a convoy truck. They had to double up, because one of the convoy trucks had broken down going from the mission back to Camp Victory. They were two miles from the safety of the camp, and the truck broke down.

Because of military regulations, they couldn`t leave the truck, so they had to wait for reinforcements. They had to wait for the tow to be hooked up and to be towed away. The Marines who were in Kelley`s convoy truck that broke down had to double up, so there were more Marines in the convoy truck than usual.

And since that slowed their progress down, the enemy was able to regain strength and force, and a suicide bomber drove directly into Kelley`s truck. He was killed on impact, along with the other seven Marines. It was so horrific that we had to wait two weeks for Kelley`s initial funeral. And we laid his remains to rest, but because of DNA testing now that it`s available, there were still remains of Kelley and other Marines that had to be identified in four to five months later. In March 2005, we had Kelley`s second funeral.

GRACE: Ms. Courtney, other than giving you our sympathy, we also give you our thanks.

We are talking about Gina Courtney`s son, Kelley Courtney. He was 28 at the time of his death, from a small town, my hometown of Macon, Georgia. He loved to skateboard, write poems, sing songs, and he leaves behind two beautiful children.

Thank you, ma`am.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are the men and women who have always answered the call. You labored at what for all time will be known as Ground Zero to save lives. You controlled critical transportation facilities in New York City to prevent even further terrorist attacks and to calm fears of the frightened public. Finally, you have created a shield, and you did it all at great personal costs. The costs can never be measured; nor will it be repaid. I thank you.


GRACE: Tonight, American heroes, heroes of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, Marines, many of them who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Tonight we honor and we remember them.

Very quickly, out to psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere. So many families, such suffering. What are your words of advice?

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: The most important thing is to, if nothing else, to stay together and honor their memory in the most courageous way that we can, and that`s by showing their continued heroics, even though they may not be with us any longer. The fact is, they made a difference, they gave their lives, and they continue to give their lives. And we have to honor that through our families.

GRACE: Tonight, with us, two American heroes, a lady and a gentleman. With us, Lieutenant Tara Dawe, and she is currently with the Manhattan Warrants Officers. She`s served on multiple tours of duty. And her regiment is up for another rotation, here in our New York studios.

Joining us out of our nation`s capital, Marine Captain Christopher Ayres. He was injured April 13, 2004, a severe injury in Fallujah.

Sir, you were in the battle of Fallujah. What happened?

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER AYRES, SERVED IN IRAQ: This was the first assault into Fallujah. In April of 2004, we were conducting combat operations against enemy insurgents that killed the four U.S. contractors from Blackwater and hung them from a bridge. And on this particular day, I set up a hasty attack against some enemy insurgents, and during the hasty attack we were ambushed pretty bad.

And we sustained intense small-arms fire, light machine gun fire, and rocket fire. And one of the rockets that pierces the side of the vehicle was an anti-tank round, and it pierced the side of the vehicle and lodged in the engine compartment. And the back half of my right leg just happened to be in the way.

GRACE: Captain, at that moment of your attack and your injury, a severe, life-altering injury, what went through your mind?

AYRES: Pretty much not much at the point, because -- I mean, it took my breath away. I couldn`t breathe; I couldn`t talk. And I pretty much just passed out from shock. And I don`t know how long I was out, and when I came to, my field of view and my vision was pretty skewed. It was very narrow, and I really didn`t have a good concept of time at that moment.

GRACE: How did you rehab?

AYRES: How did I rehab? I spent 75 days in Brooke Army Medical Center, and I left the hospital on a walker and forearm crutches, walking crutches, and I used those for about a month after I was discharged. And then I was able to continue to walk by myself.

And it took me probably about a good six months for me to gain strength in my leg and stability to where I was able to use my leg, because I was told that I would probably never be able to walk and definitely not be able to run.

GRACE: And are you?

AYRES: I can walk very well. However, I do have balance issues. It`s nice to have a hamstring when you lose your balance. And running, I can`t run like I used to. I call it hobbling. But it`s nothing like it used to be.

GRACE: Captain, I`ve got a very strong feeling that you will run again.

Here in the studio with me, Second Lieutenant Tara Dawe. She served in Iraq 2003-2004. She was also in Bosnia and her unit back up for rotation, currently with the Manhattan Warrants Officers.

OK, you`re no pushover. That`s clear. But how did a nice lady like you end up in a hell hole like that? You didn`t have to register; you didn`t have to enlist.

TARA DAWE, SERVED IN IRAQ AND BOSNIA: Well, I joined when I was 17, so actually my father had to go with me to sign the papers to join the military.

GRACE: My father lied to get into the military early, so I get it. Tell me what your experience was.

DAWE: I actually -- there was a lot of emotions over there. A lot of terrible things happened that it was very hard to deal with, but I personally think that so many good things come out of it, also.

I mean, the families there, we were greeted very well over there. They had graffiti on the walls saying, "Thank you, USA." I personally saw things saying, "Thank you. We love George Bush." I mean, I was there from the beginning until for 18 -- well, 12 months after.

GRACE: You know, Tara, when I watch the news, the world news, international news, I really don`t know who to believe. Sometimes they show us pictures of the citizens angry. Sometimes they show us pictures of the citizens welcoming us. What did you see?

DAWE: I really can`t say that we were ever treated poorly in any city. We moved around from city to city all over the country every few months, and everyone welcomed us. The children loved us; the families would cook us food and bring us food when we were out on patrols. They would do anything for us.

They actually -- when we had to leave and my unit was leaving, there were numerous people that came up to us asking us to stay, wanting to come back to the United States, actually.

GRACE: Before you went to Iraq, you wrote a letter. Why?

DAWE: Well, there were a few of us that actually did that. After my unit got deployed, but before we actually entered Iraq, it was to our families. It was our first serious deployment, and we heard about other people doing it. And we thought about it, and it made a lot of sense, because you can actually say goodbye to your family, you know, God forbid anything happened.

GRACE: Tara, do you recall the first time when you were overseas in Iraq and you learned that a colleague had lost his or her life for their country?

DAWE: Yes, I remember that.

GRACE: What happened?

DAWE: It was actually our battalion commander who was the first one that affected our unit. Our unit was actually very well over there. We didn`t have that much tragic. We were a very big unit. And when that happened, it really -- it affected everyone, everyone differently actually.

We had a memorial service for him over there. And it was the first time that we all actually had to sit down and see the reality of what happened. I mean, because you could sometimes -- I don`t want to say complacent, but you just find yourself in a different place, and yet you kind of ignore some of the things going on in the world to deal with what`s going on over there.


GRACE: Around the world, American men and women, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Here in the studio with me, Tara Dawe.

Tara, you`re facing redeployment. What are your thoughts?

DAWE: I have positive ones. I mean, I`ve already experienced it once, and I know there`s a lot of people that kind of hesitate to think about going back a second time. But so many people have done it before me. Some people are on their third or fourth rotations as of now. So, I mean, I don`t mind it at all.

GRACE: And to Captain Christopher Ayres who had a severe injury to his leg fighting for our country, Christopher, if you could do anything differently, would you?

AYRES: No, I would not. Not at all. Everything was worth -- you know, if you were to ask me, "Was it worth it going over there?" It absolutely was. You know, bottom line, when you`re stripped of everything materially, and you don`t have anything, and you learn to train with each other, what it boils down to is that Marine on your left and on your right, and that sailor on your left and on your right, and that soldier on that left and on your right, and that airmen on your left and on your right.

And when I was laying flat in my back in that house in Fallujah, and, you know, saw my Marines and corpsmen perform with the utmost bravery, honor and courage, and intrepidy, that`s what it boils down to, is these men. And they performed absolutely flawlessly.

GRACE: And, Captain, before we sign off, when you would be far, far away from home, what would you think of?

AYRES: I`d think of my wife and my daughter.

GRACE: Thank you.

AYRES: Thank you, Nancy.

GRACE: Tonight, we remember and honor the brave men and women who answered the call to duty, American heroes.


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