Local News

Many Service Members Give Lives In War Against Terrorism

Posted March 6, 2003 4:26 a.m. EST

— Since the very beginning, soldiers from Fort Bragg and airmen from Pope Air Force Base have deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Service members have returned from deployment with real war stories, but others never made it home.

Spcs. Brian Worth and Michael Rewakowski just returned from Afghanistan six weeks ago. In their barracks, the soldiers with the 82nd Airborne prepare for the possibility of another deployment.

"My friends and family don't want me to go and would be upset if I did, but I really want to go," Worth said.

If they go back into the fight against terrorism, they will do so as Purple Heart recipients. Last July, both soldiers were injured when al-Qaida members threw grenades toward them. Worth still has a fragment in his back. Rewakowski has four pieces in his body, including one right next to his eye.

"An inch to my left, it would have been my eye. An inch to my right, it would have been the soft pallet of my temple," Rewakowski said.

The men are among 23 local soldiers to be injured during Operation Enduring Freedom. They are among the lucky ones.

Sgt. Steven Checo, a member of the 82nd Airborne, was killed during a firefight. Special Operations, which is based at Fort Bragg, lost three men. Stan Harriman was killed by friendly fire. Peter Tycz died in a plane crash and Christopher Speer died during a hostile attack.

The 18th Airborne Corps lost a COSCOM soldier when a piece of heavy equipment fell on him, and Tech Sgt. John Chapman from Pope Air Force Base was killed by al-Qaida troops as he tried to rescue a Navy Seal.

For Rewakowski, the cost of freedom has never been higher.

"I always believed we should go after the terrorists, but now it's more personal because I've been directly affected by it," he said.

The two injured soldiers reported back to the line in Afghanistan just two weeks after being hit with the grenade fragments. When things slow down a bit, they hope to have some of the fragments removed.