By John Rutherford, NBC News Producer, Washington
This is the deadliest year yet for American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Already in 2007, at least 862 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and 110 in Afghanistan, according to icasualties.org. That tops the previous highs of 849 in 2004 in Iraq and 99 in 2005 in Afghanistan. All told, 3,865 have died in Iraq and 467 in Afghanistan.
Last week, 23 Americans died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Italy:
1. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Bewley, 27, of Hector, Ark., once camped out in minus-28-degree Arctic weather to see the Northern Lights. "He didn't need a lot around him to be happy," his brother told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Bewley was killed Nov. 5 by a roadside bomb in Salah ad Din Province, Iraq. "Let me tell you, man, it's hard to bury your boy when he gets killed in Iraq," his father told the Seattle Times. Bewley leaves a daughter, McKinnzie, 4.
2. Army Sgt. Daniel Shaw, 23, of West Seneca, N.Y., was planning to spend Christmas with his girlfriend's family in Colorado, then muster out of the Army next April and move back to the Buffalo area. "He was getting ready to send stuff home," his sister told the Buffalo News. Shaw's family was supposed to close on a house for him and his girlfriend on Nov. 8, but he was killed on Nov. 5 in an explosion in Taji, Iraq. He was with the 2nd Infantry Division.
The following four members of the 10th Mountain Division were killed Nov. 5 by a roadside bomb in Tal Al-Dahah, Iraq:
3. Army Staff Sgt. Carletta Davis, 34, of Anchorage, Alaska, wasn't able to give her husband and three sons a farewell hug when she left for war 10 weeks ago. They had driven from Seattle to Fort Drum, N.Y., to see her off, but they arrived the day after she deployed to Iraq for the third time in five years as a medic. They returned to Seattle, only to learn several months later of her death. They then set out for Alaska for her funeral.
4. Army Staff Sgt. John Linde of New York, N.Y., called home on Nov. 3 to tell his wife, Vilma, and their 8-year-old daughter, Victoria, that he missed them. "We were able to tell each other we loved each other," his wife told the Newark Star-Ledger. Two days later, on Nov. 5, Linde, who had planned one day to become a policeman, was killed. He would have turned 31 on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
5. Army Sgt. Derek Stenroos, 24, played hockey, sang in the choir, was in school plays, and coached youth hockey while in high school in North Pole, Alaska. "I remember saying, 'This kid's going to be all right, he's going to be a success in life,'" one of his high school teachers told the Anchorage Daily News. Stenroos was in Iraq for the second time in three years at the time of his death. An MP, he had hoped to become an Alaska state trooper.
6. Army Pfc. Adam Muller, 21, liked cars, soccer, baseball, and racquetball growing up in Richmond, Vt. "Nothing you could say about him could be bad," a schoolmate told the Burlington Free Press. Muller graduated from high school in 2004, attended Vermont Technical College for two years, and joined the Army to pay off his college loans. He wanted to become a police officer. Muller is survived by his wife of less than a year, Michelle.
7. Army Spc. Christine Ndururi, 21, of Dracut, Mass., came from a family with a military tradition. Her father was a police officer in Kenya before moving to the United States, and her two older brothers are veterans. "She enjoyed being in the military," her father told the Eagle Tribune. Ndururi, with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, died Nov. 6 in Kuwait of an undisclosed illness while en route to Iraq. She was the 118th female fatality of the war.
8. Army Capt. Benjamin Tiffner, 31, was the son of missionaries, and his family once lived in the Philippines. He was home-schooled in Pigeon, W.Va., and received an appointment to West Point in 1996. "Benjamin received his education at home, which is a miracle regarding getting into West Point," his mother told the Charleston Daily-Mail. Tiffner, with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), was killed Nov. 7 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
9. Army Sgt. Lui Tumanuvao, 29, of Fagaalu, American Samoa, was a Toa o Samoa, or Samoan warrior. He deployed to Iraq in late 2004 and again in May of this year. Tumanuvao, with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, was killed Nov. 7 by a roadside bomb in Arab Jabour. "It's a very sad day for us," his father told Pacific Magazine. "My son was a very quiet and kind person." He is survived by his widow, Selia, and their two young children, Fa'aea and Lui Jr.
The following two soldiers from the 214th Aviation Regiment and four airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing were killed Nov. 8 in the crash of an Army Black Hawk helicopter during a training mission in northeastern Italy:
10. Army Capt. Christian Skoglund, 31, was a deeply religious man from a deeply religious family. He was a member of Racine Bible Church growing up in Racine, Wis., and graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. "He was a strong, committed Christian," his father told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Skoglund also loved to fly. His family did not know if he was piloting the helicopter when it crashed. He is survived by his wife of 15 months, Elizabeth.
11. Army Chief Warrant Officer David Alvarez, 31, of Manteca, Calif., was an "A" student who had perfect attendance from kindergarten through high school. "You just knew he was going to be somebody," an older friend told the Modesto Bee. "He was so smart and interested in learning." Alvarez joined the Army out of high school, 13 years ago, and was co-pilot of the helicopter. He leaves his widow, Rachel, a nurse he met while in Army training.
12. Air Force Capt. Cartize Durham, 30, was raised by a single mother in Bossier City, La. He spent three years in the Army, got a college degree from Louisiana Tech University, and joined the Air Force. "What motivated him was how he saw his mother struggling," Durham's aunt told the Shreveport Times. Durham is survived by his widow, Shumeka, and sons, 7-year-old Taylor, and one-year-old Christian. "We've lost the best," his aunt told the Times.
13. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Rogers of Sierra Vista, Ariz., was born in 1980 in Ulm, Germany, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Army. Rogers graduated from Shiloh Christian School in Sierra Vista, where he was class valedictorian. His father felt Rogers was safe in Italy, far from the Middle Eastern war zones. "It just goes to show you how fragile life is," his father told the Ventura County Star. Rogers is survived by his 5-year-old son, Isaiah.
14. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Spence, 24, of Clarence, N.Y., attended the University of Buffalo for a year before joining the Air Force in 2003. He continued his studies in the Air Force, achieving perfect grades while working toward a degree in criminal justice from Park University. "He was coming home in June and was going to take the New York State trooper's exam," his father told the Buffalo News. Spence leaves his widow, Elana, who is expecting their first child in May.
15. Air Force Senior Airman Kenneth Hauprich, 22, of Jamestown, Ohio, always wanted to be in the military. His father is a retired Air Force pilot, and his mother was also in the military. "Even when he went out trick-or-treating as a boy, he went dressed as a little Army man," a former teacher told the Dayton Daily News. Hauprich's sister is currently serving in the military. He is survived by his widow, Kara, and their 4-month-old daughter, Emma.
The following five members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and one Marine from the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center died in a Nov. 9 ambush in Aranus, Afghanistan:
16. Army 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara, 24, of Torrance, Calif., was born in the United States but held dual New Zealand-U.S. citizenship. That made him the first New Zealand citizen to be killed in action in Afghanistan. His uncle is Phil Goff, New Zealand's defense minister. Ferrara graduated from West Point in 2005. "He really had it together," his mother told the Long Beach Press Telegram. One of his brothers also attended West Point and another is a cadet there now.
17. Army Sgt. Jeffery Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kan., was so anxious to join the Army that he graduated from high school a semester early six years ago. He had already served three tours in Iraq before his deployment to Afghanistan. "He always told me, 'I'll be okay, Mom, I'll be fine,'" his mother told KMBC. "So I took him at his word that he'd be fine." Mersman is survived by his widow and four stepchildren.
18. Army Spc. Sean Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, Calif., was an Eagle Scout who graduated from Ygnacio Valley High School in 2002. "I met him at a Halloween party," a friend wrote in legacy.com. "He was dressed as Scooby Doo, and it so fit his happy, playful personality." Langevin is survived by his widow, Jessica, who is expecting their baby daughter in February.
19. Army Spc. Lester Roque, 23, of Torrance, Calif., was born in the Philippines, emigrated to America, and served in Afghanistan. But to him, home was wherever his wife, Leikathryn, was. "I love my honey," he wrote in a Web posting. "My home is where she is, where my life is." He had three months left before he could return home to her. "I'm starting to hate it here now," he wrote her. "I don't wish for you to be here with me, I wanna be there with you."
20. Army Pfc. Joseph Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Mich., loved skateboarding, camping, and fishing. He also played high school football and baseball. "He was kind of a skinny football player, but he'd go out there and play hard," his high school athletic director told the Ludington Daily News. Lancour was home on leave in August when his unit was attacked in Afghanistan. "He said he had to get back for them," his mother told the Daily News.
21. Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks, 28, of Troy, Mich., acted in school plays and was a member of the swim club in high school. "He loved to act, especially in the play, 'Li'l Abner,'" his stepmother told the Nevada Appeal. He later developed a flair for cooking and worked in several Detroit restaurants before joining the Marines in 2000. In the Marines, he learned to shoe horses and mules and trained Marines to use pack mules in rugged, inaccessible areas.
22. Army Spc. Jermaine Franklin, 22, of Arlington, Texas, listed on a Web site that movies were his top interest, "The Godfather" was his favorite movie, "CSI" was his favorite television show, and rhythm & blues was his favorite music. Franklin, who joined the Army out of high school in 2004, was with the 101st Airborne Division north of Baghdad. He was killed Nov. 9 by a roadside bomb in Jisr Naft. He is survived by his parents.
23. Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Kutschbach, 25, of McKees Rocks, Pa., was an all-state volleyball player in high school. He won several championships and was the team's coach for three years after graduating. A Green Beret, Kutschbach died Nov. 10 of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by a rocket propelled grenade and small arms fire in Tagad, Afghanistan. He leaves his widow, Ginger, and one-year-old son, Bastian.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He posts a weekly tribute to service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.