In cemeteries from the great national burial ground in Arlington, Va., to smaller plots scattered across Maryland, families, friends and citizens will gather today to honor loved ones who have given their lives during the long struggle in Iraq and in pursuit of terrorists in Afghanistan. A total of 91 soldiers with ties to Maryland have died since Jan. 20, 2002 - 81 in Iraq and 10 in Afghanistan.
Walter F. Cohee III, the first Marylander killed in Afghanistan, died when a Marine CH-53E helicopter crashed in a remote region 60 kilometers south of Bagram in the northern part of the country. The 26-year-old Marine staff sergeant was from Mardela Springs in Wicomico County. "I will always remember his mild manner," said former Marine Jim Johnston of Massachusetts.
Kendall D. Waters-Bey, a 29-year-old Marine staff sergeant from Baltimore, was the first from Maryland to die in Iraq. He was killed when his helicopter crashed in Iraq near the Kuwait border on March 21, 2003. "He was a loving husband and father," Martin O'Malley, then Baltimore's mayor, said at his funeral. "I hope this war doesn't last long," he added.
But the war has dragged on five more years, and the names of the dead have surpassed 4,000, young men and women who lost their lives in places such as Fallujah, Basra and Mosul, places that have become as familiar as the Argonne Forest, Omaha Beach, Inchon and Saigon.
Micheal B. Matlock Jr. was Maryland's most recent Iraq casualty. The infantryman from Glen Burnie died Feb. 20 from wounds suffered when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. "It's not fair, it's really not fair," said Kelly Gross, a family friend.
Collin J. Bowen, 38, an Army National Guard staff sergeant from Millersville, died March 14 of wounds sustained Jan. 2 when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, where he was Maryland's most recent casualty. He lived here with his wife, Ursula, and their children.
"Collin passed away peacefully with his family holding his hands at his bedside," his brother Justin wrote in an online journal. "May he rest in peace."
May they all rest in peace.