We're marking a controversial anniversary. One year ago tomorrow, President George Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq. There's still a lot of fighting in Iraq, and dying.
Five hundred twenty-three Americans have been killed in combat since the war started. More than 200 more have been casualties from other causes. April is the deadliest month yet for American forces, with more troops killed in the last thirty days than in the six weeks of major combat.
The loss is hitting close to home. Twenty-five-year-old staff sergeant Esau Patterson, Jr., of Beaufort was killed yesterday morning in Iraq, by a suicide bomber who also killed seven others in his unit.
"He was a true American man, and I can always say that," his father, Esau Patterson, Sr., told us.
"They were standing at the door and they held me and said I'm sorry," recalled mother Carrie Patterson. "I asked them what do you mean you're sorry."
"I guess it just takes a part of your heart out of you," Patterson's sister Tarsha Myers said.
SSG Patterson was supposed to come home a few weeks ago, but his deployment got extended for another six months. That's on top of the year he already served in Iraq for a war his father says was senseless. "There were no weapons of mass destruction. Why were we over there?"
But despite their feelings on the war, the family supported their son and prayed for his safety. "It was something he wanted to do and he enjoyed," said Esau. "And believe me, he took care of his soldiers."
"Everyone loved him and he'll be remembered," added Tarsha.
SSG Patterson had a wife, a two-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old stepson. They'll be coming from Texas for the funeral.