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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
'The Lion In The Village'
Aired March 1, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): ... to understand what happened on that terrible day in Iraq, you must start on a much brighter day on the other side of the world.
In Washington state where Mt. Rainier stands sentinel over the Army's Fort Lewis. This is the place Captain Bill Jacobsen, his wife Riikka and their four children called home in 2004 when Bill receives the assignment of a lifetime, to lead men into combat.
RIIKKA JACOBSEN, BILL JACOBSEN'S WIFE: His father was in the Army, and so he grew up seeing that and that was just part of his life always. And I knew that was something he was going to do.
FOREMAN: 6'5", a marathon runner, a devout Mormon, at 31 Jacobsen throws himself into preparation, reviewing his training, going over equipment, even memorizing the names of all 178 men he will command.
JACOBSEN: He wanted to make sure that they knew that he cared for each one of them and one of his goals was to bring them all back home alive.
FOREMAN: He has reason to be optimistic. He is after all going with the Strykers. The Stryker is a new generation of fast attack combat vehicle. And despite early concerns about its design and performance, it has been widely praised by troops.
At 19 tons they are lighter and more agile than tanks. Outfitted with state-of-the-art threat sensing software, heat and night vision, and a wide array of weapons. Strykers are war tech marvels made for urban combat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The I.D. according to the imagery...
FOREMAN: On board computers monitor the terrain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to get me to Bravo 23...
FOREMAN: Keeping track of other Strykers nearby to reduce the danger of friendly-fire accidents. And they allow the vehicle commander to receive and send e-mails to his base.
Hit by a small rocket or mine, a cage of metal bars helps it shrug off the impact. Set on fire, it deploys automatic extinguishers to put itself out. Strykers can travel more than 60 miles an hour and keep moving with half the wheels destroyed. It can engage targets more than a mile away. And perhaps most importantly, Strykers can safely carry a dozen soldiers to a hot spot in minutes.
CAPTAIN ANDREW LUNOFF, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: Everybody wanted to be inside those.
FOREMAN: So Bill Jacobsen's friend and fellow Captain Andrew Lunoff understands the appeal.
LUNOFF: Fastest moving, best for security. No matter what you did, if you were in a Stryker, you felt like you could actually -- you'd succeed and accomplish your mission more effectively.
FOREMAN: All around Fort Lewis excitement surrounds the deployment. Staff Sergeant Julian Melo is going, a native of Panama. He was once in Manuel Noriega's army, but he grew disillusioned and came to America to join the military here. His wife Norma remembers it well.
NORMA MELO, JULIAN MELO'S WIFE: He fell in love with New York and anything American, anything American. He loved the Yankees, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, the Twin Towers.
FOREMAN: He just loved these.
MELO: Loved them.
FOREMAN: He took the attack on 9/11 very hard. So at 47 years old, having just survived prostate cancer, he steels for battle and also reassures the families of the younger soldiers.
He's going to take care of them.
MELO: He was going to take care of them. And he told them, don't you worry, I'll get them home.
FOREMAN: There are plenty of younger soldiers going. Corporal Jonathan Castro is just 21, an engineering whiz from southern California. He loves riding horses in the hills. He was completing his military service when the Pentagon issued an order extending the tour of duty for many of the troops. His mother, Vickie, is worried that her son makes the best of it like he does with everything.
VICKIE CASTRO, JONATHAN CASTRO'S MOTHER: He loved to build things. He loved to design. He loved to create. He was very -- a people person and he would greet every day with a smile from the time he was small.
FOREMAN: From deep in the sugar cane fields of Louisiana, Private First Class Lionel Ayro prepares to deploy. He is 22, but he's been admired for years locally as a tireless worker. His mother, Catherine, says he'd go off to the fields every day after school.
CATHERINE AYRO, LIONEL AYRO'S MOTHER: He would get off from work. He'd come here, do what he have to do, take out trash, clean up and like on a Saturday and a Sunday, he'll go out there and he'll work. He'll work till it's time for him to get off. And if there's somebody out there need help, he going to get there and help him.
FOREMAN: Staff Sergeant Robert Johnson from northern California is 23. He's talked his whole life about being a fireman, a police officer, a soldier. His aunt Christine Sullivan says, he simply always wanted to protect people, but she wonders how well he can protect himself.
CHRISTINE SULLIVAN, ROBERT JOHNSON'S AUNT: I supported Robert in his choice to be in the military. It doesn't make you not worry about him, but you have to come to some kind of resolution that it's OK, you know, but, yes, I worried every day, every day.
FOREMAN: And from Idaho, Staff Sergeant Darren VanKomen packs his bags too. He's 33, was in the military and got out, met and married Stephanie along the way.
STEPHANIE VANKOMEN, DARREN VANKOMEN'S WIFE: When the war kicked off, he told me, he says, baby, he says, I got to go back. He says, this is something that I've trained for for all these years -- 14 years. And that's what he wanted to do. So if I tried to talk him out of it or say that I did talk him out of it, he'd end up hating me because that's what he was destined to do.
FOREMAN: Across the ocean, however, other men are also preparing for a clash with destiny in Iraq's third largest city, Mosul.
This is where Saddam Hussein's sons were hunted and killed, the heart of the Sunni triangle. And home to one of the deadliest insurgent groups, Ansar Al-Sunna, the defenders of tradition. These insurgents had wanted to land a major blow against the Americans here over the summer, but security around their chosen target was too strong, so they have waited and watched.
Summer has ended.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lock them up.
FOREMAN: And by the time the Strykers are on their way, a new and terrible plan has been born.
FOREMAN: As the Strykers drop into Iraq in early autumn, coalition forces are pounding enemy strongholds, but each time the net closes, the insurgents slip into the population, move to the next town and start fighting again.
By November, the chase has brought the Strykers to the northern city of Mosul. Captain Justin Uhler expects his men will see plenty of action.
CAPTAIN JUSTIN UHLER, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: But the city literally exploded -- was an absolute -- just absolute chaos inside the city. The police stations were gutted and burned and so it was incredibly frenetic pace. There was always a sense that you were in dangerous territory. FOREMAN: You were aware this whole time, though, that insurgents were in this city?
FOREMAN: Targeting you, targeting the base?
FOREMAN: The base, Forward Operating Base Marez, or the FOB, as the Strykers call it, is a sprawling complex near a former Iraqi airfield. From here American and Iraqi troops run a grueling schedule of patrols into and around Mosul.
Captain Andrew Lunoff.
LUNOFF: And one of the most important things we learned was to always be unpredictable. Never set patterns. When you're going on a mission or going on a convoy, change your time, change your route. Do those things.
FOREMAN: So you were doing that all the time?
LUNOFF: Trying to. Yes, as much as we could.
FOREMAN: Because in part, you knew you were likely being watched?
FOREMAN: His friend, Captain Bill Jacobsen, takes advantage of the fact that towns folk are watching. He encourages the Strykers to say hello to the adults, hand out candy and play with the children.
He believes his soldiers will be safer, the town more stable if they can make friends while hunting enemies.
The Strykers also try to calm tensions back home.
Sergeant Melo mans the turret gun on one trip. Never says a word about it to Norma.
N. MELO: Oh, he wouldn't tell me. He wouldn't tell me about missions. He just led me to believe that he was a supply sergeant in the FOB.
FOREMAN: Robert Johnson has previously written in a letter, I just want to be home near friends and family. I guess you don't know what you have until it's gone. But now his mother, Mina Schrock, senses her son's growing pride in his military service.
MINA SCHROCK, ROBERT JOHNSON'S MOTHER: I think he was planning on making it a career.
FOREMAN: When the Strykers are not facing land mines, snipers and ambushes, life on the base is good. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where we had to walk all the way down there to go to chow.
FOREMAN: They have a large gym, comfortable rooms, excellent food.
The mess tent is the social center, serving hundreds of tired, hungry soldiers who pack in at every meal time. They crowd along the serving line that runs near the kitchens, around the salad and soup bars in the center and then they spread out among the tables.
The mess is surrounded by barriers to stop would-be car bombers if any ever made it this far and concrete bunkers to weathering the daily mortar attacks. But the big white tent in the middle of camp worries Sniper Nick Malich, whose own deadly art relies on watching his enemy for patterns and weaknesses.
STAFF SERGEANT NICK MALICH, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: Just from a car driving by, you could see that that was our chow. You could see people lining up to go in. And you could see the times that they were going also.
FOREMAN: So you knew it was a target?
MALICH: Yes. Everybody knew it was a, you know, it was a target.
FOREMAN: Nonetheless, the Strykers are settling in.
Christmas is coming.
JULIAN MELO, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: At first it was a little bit hard to get some ornaments here in Iraq.
FOREMAN: In his living quarters, Julian Melo has come up with a Christmas tree.
J. MELO: I make this row with Fruit Loops and start decorating my Christmas tree. For me Christmas is about family. And being far away from my family, at least to have a Christmas tree and some decorations bring me closer to there.
FOREMAN: Darren VanKomen has great news for Stephanie and his stepdaughter Chelsea. He'll have leave right after Christmas.
S. VANKOMEN: He said they asked me if I wanted to go home on the 28th, and he says not only yes, but hell yes. And he says so I'm coming home.
FOREMAN: Still, when Dean Hoffmeyer, a photographer with the "Richmond Times Dispatch" arrives, daily mortar attacks and the sense that the insurgents are always spying are making everyone edgy.
DEAN HOFFMEYER, PHOTOGRAPHER, RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH: I had taken some pictures of the city where we thought we could see a man with binoculars watching the guard check across the way. FOREMAN: Is this an insurgent watching and waiting? They just don't know. But within days they will find out that most certainly someone out there was preparing to pounce.
FOREMAN: In 1991, the influential Indian politician Rajiv Gandhi had just arrived at an election rally when a young woman stepped forward, gave him flowers and exploded. Gandhi and 17 others died, including the woman. She was part of an extremist group from Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, the world's most active suicide bombers.
This was their first known use of the suicide vest, a garment packed with explosives and ball bearings. Easily concealed beneath clothing, it allows an assassin to get close to a target without suspicion.
The vest quickly became a favorite with Middle East terrorists and just five days before Christmas, one group in Mosul has had its tailors hard at work.
As insurgents go, the members of Ansar Al-Sunna are highly disciplined. Enough to produce a newscast for the Internet on which they show their endless attacks on coalition troops. And on December 20th, 2004, they produce this remarkable videotape, which they will later release through the Internet, part of the increasingly sophisticated propaganda campaign of the insurgency.
On it a man is identified as Abdul Omar al-Mosuli. It is almost certainly a fake name. But if the Strykers could have only heard the real plans these hooded men recorded.
We will strike the enemy of God with great might, to leave panic in the hearts of the Americans, they say. One of the lions of Islam will infiltrate the fortress of the enemies by sneaking in through an opening in the fence when the guards will be on break.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wish to take this time to wish you a special holiday greeting. So with that, here are the guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Happy holidays...
FOREMAN: The Americans are making their own videotapes. Lionel Ayro, so quiet and determined, that his friends call him the thinker, records a Christmas message for his family.
LIONEL AYRO, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: Hi. I'm PFC Ayro from Four Platoon, 73rd Engineer. I'd like to give a shout out to everybody, wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see y'all when we get back to the States.
FOREMAN: The Strykers and all the other soldiers at the base are not lax about security. Their patrols are to be stepped up this very week, precisely because military intelligence believes insurgents would like to strike at Christmastime. Jeremy Redmon is a reporter with "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution." But back then, he worked with the photographer, Dean Hoffmeyer.
JEREMY REDMON, CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL: At the time, everything seemed secure, very organized, orderly.
FOREMAN: Redmon is struck by one strange thing, however. In the mess hall, the Iraqi National Guardsmen eat right alongside the Americans in an area close to the salad bars.
REDMON: I just didn't expect it. But I didn't know that it was necessarily anything wrong with that. They all sat usually at the same table, too, and they would have maybe 15 to 20 of them at a time.
FOREMAN: Many of the Americans are not entirely happy about that. Nor about the stream of Iraqi civilians working on the base.
Justin Uhler coordinates efforts with the Iraqi troops.
UHLER: There's a tremendous level of distrust between the Iraqi forces at that time and the Americans, predominantly on the American side. The Iraqis -- our impression of them at that time was that they really didn't want to be there and they weren't really excited about working.
FOREMAN: Worse, many of the Americans feel the Iraqis cannot be counted on in a fight against insurgents. Even simple patrols are shaky.
UHLER: There was one day where it took me five hours to get the Iraqis onto trucks, literally coaxing them, cajoling them to get onto vehicles.
FOREMAN: Uhler's friend, Sergeant Melo, shares those concerns, but he also worries about the Iraqi families outside the base among the insurgents, especially the children.
N. MELO: He had once told me, you know what makes these kids different from our kids, Norma, other than they're American and these are Iraqi. Why do they not deserve the simple rights and freedoms that we have?
FOREMAN: In Mosul the videotaping session is drawing to an end. The masked members of Ansar Al-Sunna display a hand drawn map of the Strykers base, pointing to it with a dagger. And they embrace the man who will be their next martyr against the Americans, their lion in the village.
We have been monitoring these filthy crusaders for a long time, they say, and soon this lion will reach his target.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Strykers have proven to be one of the great success stories of the war in Iraq. Their ability to pursue and punish the enemy has earned them a fierce reputation.
But with Christmas nearly upon Mosul, a man is heading toward their base, hoping to hit the Strykers with a fatal blow.
Once again, Tom Foreman.
FOREMAN: December is usually cold in Mosul, but the 21st arrives clear and warmer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are your guns fully loaded?
FOREMAN: The camp is buzzing with the typical morning workload.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, gentlemen. Getting ready for the day.
FOREMAN: Jonathan Castro and his unit have just gotten back from an overnight mission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to start being sensitive.
FOREMAN: Just before noon, Julian Melo asked Justin Uhler if he wants to grab lunch.
UHLER: This is where we print.
FOREMAN: Uhler is struggling to fix a computer printer.
UHLER: That I was ready to throw out the window. And I said, no, go ahead, take off. And I'll meet you over there.
FOREMAN: Darren VanKomen and another Sergeant Shane Briel (ph) have been tending to logistical issues for their men. They go to the mess tent together and find it crowded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's several hundred people in there, or more. I mean, there was a lot of people in the mess hall. It was a busy place.
FOREMAN: Captain Jacobsen is there. So are Robert Johnson and Lionel Ayro. Jonathan Castro, who handles the mail, sees his friend, Specialist Alejandro Soto.
SPECIALIST ALEJANDRO SOTO, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: As I was leaving, he was just arriving. And when I seen him, I wanted to ask him about a piece of mail that my mom had sent me, a package. And he told me he'd give it to me later and that's the last time I talked to him.
FOREMAN: The Sniper Nick Malich is tied up in a mission briefing and realizes he'll miss lunch. The Photographer Dean Hoffmeyer and Reporter Jeremy Redmon missed breakfast for another briefing. So they rushed to the mess tent.
At the entrance, a man counts the number of diners at each meal for bookkeeping and planning purposes.
REDMON: But no one asking for identification of any kind that I recall.
FOREMAN: Based on the recollections of these men and others, this is where they all are believed to be at precisely four minutes past the hour of noon. The lunch rush is in full swing. It is loud, when unnoticed in all that noise, all those people at the Iraqi National Guard's table, a man folds his feet under his chair, puts his hands in front of him and bows his head.
We had just had gotten our food and I was getting ready to take my weapon off my chest and shoulder and stuff. One minute I was standing there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very quiet and my ears were ringing. I heard the sounds of moaning. And I heard one man scream, and that was the point I reached for my camera and thought, somebody's going to want to see what happened in here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a huge explosion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It rocked the whole area, and the ground physically shook.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'd say I probably went a good 30 feet or more. I remember thinking to myself, man, a mortar round came off in here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a very loud, very intense crack, like getting hit by a football player and punched in the face at the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know what happened first. I just felt like somebody had pushed me. And I remember just laying there thinking, OK, this is like when you are dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sent a shock wave through my body, and it was this gigantic fireball that was burning through the top of the tent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one of the medics was running toward us, and it was like they hit the chow hall. And immediately, everyone just got up and moved, running towards the chow hall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tables were everywhere, the chairs were everywhere. Blood on the ground everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I took a couple pictures. I saw some soldiers instantly running in. It was at that time I realized there was a soldier who was next to me who had been hit by shrapnel and was dying. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I went to move, I almost kind of blacked out because my leg, I had a piece of shrapnel that went through and had shattered my femur.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember a female soldier running out saying, "I can't hear." She Had lost her hearing, and then I started to see the bodies come out.
FOREMAN (on camera): Were you aware that other people around you had not survived the blast?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
FOREMAN (voice over): Shane Brill (ph) had been right across from Darren VanKomen. Within an hour, Brill (ph) is sedated, unconscious, and he wakes up a month later in Texas to find that VanKomen was killed. Alejandro Soto (ph) looks for his friend Jonathan Castro, sees a man stretched out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's laying on the table. And he had somebody else's shirt over his face. So I didn't know it was him until I picked him up and the shirt fell. And sure enough, it was him.
FOREMAN: He tries repeatedly to revive Castro, stopping only when he is pulled off by others and then finding that Lionel Ayro is gone, too. So is Robert Johnson, so is Julian Melo. Justin Euler (ph) is told after he helps remove other bodies from the tent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I specifically remember, you know, looking through the bags, looking for the tag on the outside of the bag, and then -- and then requesting, you know, to see him.
FOREMAN (on camera): Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I had to see it to believe it.
FOREMAN (voice over): Captain Bill Jacobsen asks about his soldiers, calls out to get them help, although he too soon dies. Andrew Lunoff hears about it hours later.
CAPTAIN ANDREW LUNOFF, STRYKER BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS: To have somebody just come by and tell you, you know, Bill died, I mean, I'll never forget that. It's something you could never ever forget and almost something you never want to remember either.
FOREMAN: This never-before-seen video was taken by a sergeant from Hawaii. It shows decorations...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The burst radius is approximately 50 meters in circumference.
FOREMAN: ...destruction, but it cannot show the heroism that filled the tent with rescuers right after the blast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God help us. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One soldier I saw had -- the bottom of his trousers was completely bloody from the knee down, and he was moving people out. And a sergeant asked him, "What about you?" He says, "I'm fine because I'm standing."
FOREMAN: Civilian contractors join in, too. Tables are turned into stretchers, Nick Malich's (ph) snipers form a perimeter around the wounded as the insurgents launch mortars into the chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we were trying to load them into the hospital and, you know, helicopters were flying out with wounded, mortar rounds were coming in, so...
FOREMAN (on camera): So you felt like they were then targeting the hospital?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely.
FOREMAN (voice over): And yet the soldiers work on, saving lives, never flinching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To watch them operate was really inspiring. These are -- these are the highest form of human beings.
FOREMAN (voice over): Sixty-nine people have been wounded, six Strykers from Ft. Lewis have died, 16 other people have also lost their lives. Soldiers and civilians, Americans and Iraqis.
Across the ocean, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses and children are sleeping, and many will wake to the worst day of their lives.
FOREMAN (voice over): The morning of December 21st finds Norma Melo at her job on Ft. Lewis...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Verify that the numbers are still the same for the soldiers.
FOREMAN: ... preparing to help any families who might have men hurt or killed in the bombing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witnesses say an explosion knocked soldiers out of their seats and sprayed shrapnel everywhere.
FOREMAN: She passes a TV and sees one of photographer Dean Hoffmeyer's (ph) pictures.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I thought, that looks like Julian.
FOREMAN: She dismisses the thought and rushes on. She's been called to an unexpected meeting. She walks in, sees two uniformed men. She knows what it means.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think every wife knows what that means, and then I just looked -- I said, "It can't be. It can't be."
I just kind of kept saying, "This can't happen. It can't be happening. Not us. Not him. Not there."
I said, "How many from Ft. Lewis?" And they said, "Six."
FOREMAN: At their apartment near the base, Stephanie VanKomen (ph) and Chelsea (ph) have heard about the bombing, are trying to start their day anyway, then a knock.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I opened the door and I told them -- I said, "Please don't tell me what I know you're coming here to tell me."
FOREMAN: In Jeanerette, Louisiana, it is very similar for Katherine Ayro (ph). . UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, "I know you all ain't coming to tell me my son got killed."
FOREMAN (on camera): What did you do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cried. I cried and I cried.
FOREMAN (voice over): The world stops in northern California for Robert Johnson's (ph) family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just fell to my knees and said, "No." I'm sorry. Not my nephew, not Robert.
FOREMAN: In southern California, Vicky Castro (ph), who is a schoolteacher, hears nothing from her son all day, so she writes an e- mail in the evening to see if he's all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as I clicked the send button, someone was at my door, and life as you know it ends at that point. The center of my universe was taken away from me. Everything I did revolved around my child. He was my only one, and he was everything to me.
FOREMAN: The soldiers back in Mosul carry on, stepping up missions, protecting themselves, sending a message to the insurgents. It isn't until a few days later, on Christmas, in the glow of holiday lights and the safety of his bunk, that Justin Euler (ph) has time to reflect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I started opening the gifts and I just started sobbing, and I think -- I think that's the moment. You know, I think that's the moment when -- when you just kind of felt it all just kind of come down on you.
FOREMAN: The insurgents release a videotape of the attack and the aftermath. A leaflet appears on the streets of Mosul in which they claim to have killed more than 160 American troops. It is an absurd exaggeration and a grave miscalculation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just cowardly, outright cowardly. It just makes no sense to me.
FOREMAN: Military investigators find remnants of an Iraqi National Guard uniform used by the bomber as a disguise. They find ball bearings that the explosive vest fired through the room. And the Strykers find more resolve to destroy the insurgent movement here.
LUNOFF: Killed it. And I'll say that profoundly, because that unit, all the brigade, they went out after that and we were on a mission. And we were on a mission to go and try to rid that city of all the insurgents that were there.
FOREMAN: Captain Bill Jacobsen loved the Iraqi people and never lost faith in them.
RIIKKA JACOBSEN, BILL JACOBSEN'S WIFE: One of his goals was that he wanted to bring us there in, you know, in a few years to a free -- free Iraq on a vacation.
FOREMAN: His wife Riikka was crushed to learn that her soldier was gone. She cried. She told their four children. She cried some more.
JACOBSEN: I just remember him. I just hear his voice and his laugh, and I just miss him so much.
FOREMAN: She and Bill agreed before he left that at the same minute every day they would bow their heads and be united in prayer.
JACOBSEN: Still, now sometimes when I catch -- if I see the clock is 8:01, I'll just say a prayer, even today.
FOREMAN: She prays when she learns of his death. It is, after all, their anniversary.
FOREMAN (voice over): The sugarcane fields of Louisiana are burned off in the winter to prepare the ground for spring. The smoke can make it hard to see. Lionel Ayro worked these fields, now he lies among them. His mother cannot see how his life came to this.
(on camera): Have you had enough answers yet about what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
FOREMAN: Do you understand what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not really. FOREMAN (voice over): Great armies should not share too many secrets in times of war, and secrecy still surrounds that day. Some of the victims' families have learned that the men behind the bombing are being tracked down. Two are believed to have been killed, two captured, and two are in Syria.
(on camera): Does it matter to you if they catch them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be lying if I said no.
FOREMAN (voice over): The complete investigation report, however, has still not been released. Only parts have.
Among the findings, the fence around the base was old and scheduled for repair. Intelligence officers had picked up no hints that the attack was coming. And the military still does not know who the Lion of Islam was or how he got to the mess tent.
For Vicky Castro (ph), who now speaks out against this war, that's not enough, not for her son's life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know how and why. I want to know the last words he spoke. I want to know all of it.
It won't bring him back, but maybe by asking the questions and demanding the answers it'll prevent it from happening again. And it will prevent another mother from getting that knock at the door that ends life as you know it.
FOREMAN: She has built a room to Jonathan's memory. It hods his inventions, his riding awards, a picture taken the day he died.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This picture was taken about two hours before he was killed.
FOREMAN: She comes here to sit and think and remember.
Outside Ft. Lewis, after too many sleepless nights, Stephanie VanKomen (ph) could not sit still when she heard about Shane Brill (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take it to Kevin (ph).
FOREMAN: The man who went to lunch with her husband nearly lost his leg, nearly his life. He never asked for help, but she gave it anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd do his I.V.s. I dressed him. I cooked for him.
FOREMAN (on camera): Did this help?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because if my husband would have came back, I would have been doing the same thing for him.
FOREMAN (voice over): Darren told her he was coming home on December 28th, and that was the day his body arrived.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had 23 wonderful years with Robert, every single minute of every day I spent with him.
FOREMAN: Robert Johnson's high school gives a scholarship in his name to a student who shows great service to the community, just like he did.
Mosul has been sometimes more, sometimes less under control. Department of Defense documents show that base security throughout Iraq was reviewed and tightened after the attack.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good to see you. Thanks for what you're doing. Appreciate it.
FOREMAN: The secretary of defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, came to Mosul after the bombing and gave Purple Hearts to the wounded.
RUMSFELD: There's the Purple Heart. I am sure that...
FOREMAN: Nick Malich (ph) ended up with one. He was untouched by the bomb, but was shot through the shoulder days before he was to leave Iraq.
Dean Hoffmeyer's (ph) photos appeared in newspapers around the world. He has never stopped thinking of the bravery he saw before his lens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumors persisted for a long time among the soldiers that when the suicide bomber stood up, several American soldiers jumped on him, wrapped their arms around him to protect others from the blast and that's the reason why the blast went upwards instead of out.
FOREMAN (on camera): Any truth to that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. But I see no reason to not believe it, because the people I saw in action that day would certainly do that.
FOREMAN (voice over): Riikka Jacobsen promised her husband that she would run a marathon one day, and she did so in his memory. She fills her children's home with pictures and stories of their father so they will remember him. Even the youngest, Avalon (ph), who barely got to know him.
Julian Melo loved music, so his wife Norma (ph) is raising money to buy musical instruments for schoolchildren in Iraq. On her wrist, she wears a bracelet made by an Iraqi widow. In her heart, she carries her immigrant husband's love of all humanity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pray for all our fallen every day. I do this not because I think, you know, it's going to bring goodness to Americans or anything. I do this because my sisters on the other side of this world are in pain.
FOREMAN: And Justin Euler (ph), like so many soldiers who come back, remembers his friends, all who died and all in this war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there are definitely more days than not where I wonder if that's where I should be, that's where I ought to be, that's where I'm morally obliged to be because of what is happening and what continues to happen.
FOREMAN: Out on the edge of Ft. Lewis, a monument bears the names of the fallen Strykers, and what may be most remarkable about these men is that, by all accounts, they did not consider themselves remarkable at all. They were simply American soldiers, brave, honorable, dedicated, like the many thousands of others who have picked up their flag and are fighting still.
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