By John Rutherford, NBC News Producer, Washington
Ten more U.S. troops died last week in a war their former commanding general called "a nightmare with no end in sight." Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003-04, called the Bush administration's handling of the war "incompetent" and the troop surge a "desperate attempt" to make up for years of shortcomings. "The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat," Sanchez said in a speech.
In response, President Bush said he's pleased with the progress being made in Iraq. "The situation on the ground has changed dramatically since [Sanchez] left Iraq," the president said in a news conference.
While the debate continued, the following troops died:
1. Army Cpl. Gilberto Meza, 21, was known as a "tough kid" who got into his share of scrapes growing up in Oxnard, Calif. But he began to turn his life around two years ago when he joined the Army. "This was like a career move for him," his brother told the Ventura County Times. Meza, assigned to the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, was killed Oct. 6 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. "God, I still don't believe it," his brother told KEYT-TV.
2. Army Cpl. Benjamin Dillon was home on leave last month in Rootstown, Ohio, celebrating his 22nd birthday. He spent his time talking to his family around campfires and racing four-wheelers through the woods. Dillon was back with his Ranger unit just a short time when he was shot and killed Oct. 7 in northern Iraq. "Bad things aren't suppose to happen to such good people," his high school coach told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
3. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Burris, 22, grew up in Liberty, Texas, the oldest of seven children. "Born and raised in Texas and proud of it," he bragged in MySpace. In 2004, Burris moved to Tacoma, Wash., with a Christian ministry program and joined the Marines two years later. "My nickname around here is 'Jesus,'" he said in MySpace. "I'm kinda proud of that." Burris was killed Oct. 8 by a roadside bomb in Iraq's Al Anbar Province.
4. Army Sgt. Jason Lantieri, 25, of Killingworth, Conn., had a difficult time with his biological family and moved in with a foster family at the age of 11. "He was a gift to us," his foster mother told the Hartford Courant. Lantieri got a college degree and joined the Army's 25th Infantry Division. On Oct. 10, he died in Iskandaryah, Iraq, of injuries suffered when he was pinned between two vehicles. "Earth-shattering," his foster mother told the Courant. "Every mother's nightmare."
5. Army Staff Sgt. Eric Duckworth, 26, of Plano, Texas, was a military policeman with the 89th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad. He was killed Oct. 10 by a roadside bomb. "Ducky will be remembered fondly by those of us that knew him," a friend wrote in chron.com. "He was a good kid, lanky, goofy, with a big heart." Duckworth leaves his widow, Sonya, a one-year-old son, Michael, a daughter, Madison, 4, and a stepdaughter, Kaylynn, 10.
6. Army Staff Sgt. Lillian Clamens, 35, was due home from Iraq this week, just in time to enjoy Halloween with her family in Homestead, Fla. "We already have costumes," her husband, Raymond, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. But Clamens, an administrative clerk with a postal platoon, was killed in an Oct. 10 rocket attack on Camp Victory near Baghdad's Airport. Besides her husband, she is survived by a son, Ayinde, 14, and two daughters, Lana, 8, and Victoria, 7.
7. Army Spc. Samuel Pearson, 28, of Westerville, Ohio, was one of only two tight ends on his high school football team who his coach remembers could actually catch the ball. "He was a great kid for us," his coach told the Dayton Daily News. Pearson played college football, too, and was a finance specialist with the 88th Regional Readiness Command. He died in the same rocket attack that killed Sgt. Clamens. Pearson had been in Iraq six weeks.
8. Army Spc. Frank Cady III, 20, of Sacremento, Calif., was sometimes called a "force of nature" by his family because of his energy and unpredictability. He joined the Army after graduating with honors from a charter high school. Cady, a chemical specialist with the 1st Infantry Division, was killed Oct. 10 when his vehicle rolled over several times in Baghdad. "He will be missed, loved," his mother told News 10.
9. Army Staff Sgt. Donald Munn II, 25, of Saint Clairs Shores, Mich., was leading his platoon on a mission in Baghdad on Oct. 11 when he sensed something was wrong and pulled his men back, just before a bomb exploded, fatally wounding him. "He put everybody else before himself," a friend told the Detroit Free Press. Munn, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, is survived by his widow, Jennifer, and one-year-old daughter, Jordan. "He had a whole life ahead of him," his grandmother told News 8.
10. Army Pvt. Nathan Thacker, 18, of Greenbrier, Ark., enlisted in the Army six months ago and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in August. He arrived in Iraq just two weeks before he died in an Oct. 12 roadside bombing in Kirkuk. Thacker was the third youngest of seven children. "He loved me, I loved him, and I'd give anything to have him back," his sister told the Associated Press.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He posts a weekly tribute to service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.