Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Everyone talks about the troops. Everyone talks about doing all they can for the troops. Everyone supports the troops.

Blah, blah, blah.

Arab, Alabama, USA is a small town south of Huntsville and north of Birmingham. It's the kind of place where soldiers come from, where kids sign up for military service, where people believe in their country.

Arab is the kind of place presidential candidates pretend to relate to. What a joke that is.

Columbia, Missouri is a place where a young women is now a young widow with two little kids after her young man from Arab is killed in Iraq.

Seems the army decided it was okay for her husband and a son of Alabama to go off on patrol without his flak jacket. Seems the army also thought it was cool for him to "work" alone...in Iraq...in a war.

Oh well, what the hey.

The army also forgot to notify anyone when he was shot. They waited for him to die and then tell those who loved him...in Arab, in Columbia.

They're supposed to tell you within three hours if a loved one has been shot.

They didn't.
Sorry about that.

Think it'll be mentioned at the Republican Convention?

Think it'll be mentioned anywhere outside of Arab and maybe Columbia (and here)?

I kinda doubt it.

After all if you mentioned every "incident," every little mistake like this one, well, hell people might get pissed...people who live in towns like Arab that this nation depend on so much...they might get pissed.

Can't have that.

Besides, Steven Fitzmorris (pictured here), the young soldier killed, he wasn't anyone important. Just some guy from some small Alabama town.

And anyway, we all support the troops, especially our President who supports them to death.

The following is from the Arab (Alabama) Tribune.

Death in Iraq brings grief, anger
By DAVID MOORE - The Arab Tribune

Steven Fitzmorris spent half of his life in Arab. The 26-year-old soldier was killed by sniper fire this past week while on patrol in Iraq.

He leaves behind his 22-year-old wife in Columbia, Mo., with their son and daughter, ages 3 and 2.

His mother, Rosemarie Fitzmorris-Currier, who lives in Salem near Opelika, was grief-stricken when she heard the news Monday that her son had died.

She was angry when she was told Steven apparently had been ordered out without his flak jacket and without a partner to watch his back.

She turned livid Wednesday afternoon at the Arab home of her parents, Frank and Louise Fitzmorris, when she learned that, contrary to initial reports, Steven lived 24 hours after being shot and that the Army failed to notify next of kin that he had been wounded.

Rosemarie called it a military scandal.

"I am not going to let this story be hidden under layers of military garbage," she said. "My son deserves better than that.

"If it happened to Steven, how many others did it happen to? If it was one other, that's too many. No one should have to go through what we're going through because the military can't get its act together.

"Steven..." Rosemarie paused. "With God as my witness, with all that is holy, he will be revenged. Someone will pay for this."

His body had been expected back in Columbia Wednesday. Instead, she learned that afternoon, it was being held at Fort Dix, N.J., "because of the investigation."

Word Thursday was that Steven's body would be flown to Columbia tomorrow. A wake is planned for Monday followed by a military funeral at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Arrangements are being handled by Memorial Funeral Home in Columbia.

An E-4, Steven served in A Battery, 329th Field Artillery, stationed in Fort Carson, Colo. They deployed for Iraq between Christmas and New Year's 2008 for an 18-month mission.

He was stationed in "some dumb little neighborhood in a podunk town north of Baghdad," as his mother put it.

Her husband, Michael Currier, said they had to resort to unofficial reports through unofficial Army connections to learn what allegedly happened that day. According to those reports:

Steven and others in his unit had been on another detail, apparently at their base, when they were ordered out on a patrol. They were told they didn't need to go back and get their flak jackets because the mission was into a safe zone.

The idea was to greet Iraqis, tell them they were doing a good job and ask if they needed help rebuilding a home, business or school.

"It was a meet and greet. 'What can we do for you?' They were making nice," Rosemarie said.

"The understanding was that he got shot. He keyed his mike (on his radio)," she said. "They got him to an emergency room" and he died there.

According to their Army sources, another soldier on patrol with Steven's unit was shot about the same time an unknown distance away.

"That's not gospel," Rosemarie said, reiterating that the information had not come as official word from the Army.

'Have you forgotten?'

Steven's wife, Samantha, called Michael with the news Monday evening. The Army had told her at that point only that he had been killed in action, shot by a sniper while on patrol.

Rosemarie, the youngest of the Fitzmorrises' children, was too distraught to call her sister and brother-in-law in Arab, Kathleen and Kevin McGarrahan, and her brother, Richard Fitzmorris, and his wife in Maine. Michael made the calls.

But there was no way they could deliver such news to her parents over the telephone.

"These two are too precious to me to tell them that kind of news over the phone," she said, sitting with them at their table. "I had to be here and tell them it would be OK."

Rosemarie and Michael drove up Tuesday from Opelika in Steven's green Chrysler van. A decal on the back window reads: "Field Artillery." A magnet in the shape of ribbon on the rear hatch asks: "Have you forgotten?"

They went first the McGarrahans' house. Rosemarie had to compose herself enough to say "Steven" without falling apart. They went to Louise and Frank's house about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Louise was surprised to see the four of them at the door. When she and Frank were instructed to sit on the sofa, she knew it was bad news. She feared Steven had been wounded.

The news of his death, Frank said, was hard on Louise. For him, it was the toughest thing he'd dealt with since years ago when he had to tell his parents that his sister had died.

Steven was coming home next month for R&R. His whole crew planned to come down from Columbia to see Rosemarie and Michael, stopping in Arab to visit him and Louise, Frank said.

'Wear your body armor'

Early Wednesday afternoon Rosemarie was asking angry questions.

Why was Steven ordered out without his Kevlar flak jacket? Why were he and others in his unit working solitarily and not with a buddy?

Her anger was interspersed with fond memories of her son.

Rosemarie said they often communicated via Instant Messenger.

"Don't worry about me," he wrote a number of times. "I'm bulletproof.'"

He was bad to forget the time difference and call home late at night, Rosemarie said, though it was not much of a complaint. His last call came at 11:30 p.m. Saturday her time. They talked 30-45 minutes.

"The last thing I said to him, it's what I always say... 'I love you. Take care. Wear your helmet. Wear your body armor.'"

"I love you, Mom," he'd replied. "And I will take care."

"I love you, Bubby," she repeated before hanging up. "Be careful."

Choking news

At one point Wednesday, Rosemarie went to the porch and called Columbia to see if Steven's body had arrived as planned and arrangements had been completed.

She returned in tears, choking for breath.

Michael finally got her calmed enough to talk.

"He lived through the ER," Rosemarie cried in her mother's kitchen. "He lived through surgery. He lived for 24 hours, and they never told anybody he was hurt. Why?"

Had they known, she said, they could have called, even if he'd been on a respirator.

"They could have put the phone to his ear," she said. "Maybe he would have known we were there."

A short while later, after another phone call, Rosemarie said she learned that at one point after surgery Steven was awake.

Then she did the math in her head... They had assumed Steven was shot Monday and died shortly after. But if he was shot some 24 hours earlier, then given the time differential between Iraq and Alabama, that meant...

"I talked to him the morning he got shot," she said, referring to their last conversation. "He was having his coffee."

'I am very unhappy'

Instead of easing her tortured soul, the realization she talked to Steven a few hours before he was shot did just the opposite.

"They so don't want me anywhere near anyone in high command," Rosemarie said.

A few moments later Michael entered the room. He said he'd been on the phone with an Army chaplain, who told him that if a soldier is wounded, his next of kin is supposed to be notified within three hours.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Army did not return calls on its notification policy. A Department of Defense spokesman said its policy, which might differ from the Army's, is to notify next of kin "as expeditiously as possible."

"I am very unhappy," Steven's mother said. "And that's not going to go away soon."

Copyright © 2008 The Arab Tribune

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