Soldier Remembered as Iraq Death Toll Climbs - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Soldier Remembered as Iraq Death Toll Climbs

Reported by Paul Merrill
December 28, 2006

The number of American soldiers killed in Iraq is on the verge of hitting a terrible milestone. Nearly 3,000 servicemen and women have given their lives since the conflict began almost four years ago.

It's been almost two years since Rhonda Winfield came home to her Stuarts Draft farm to find two Marines standing in her driveway. They had come to tell her that her 19-year-old son had been killed in Iraq.

As the number of American soldiers killed in the war edges closer to 3,000, Winfield says the milestone won't change her opinion on the overseas struggle.

"This particular group wanted to make sure that the families of every one of the fallen received a quilt," said Winfield. 

Rhonda Winfield's son is one of the fallen. Marine Lance Corporal Jason Redifer died nearly two years ago when his vehicle hit an explosive device in Iraq. This is the second Christmas his Stuarts Draft family is spending without him.

"The hardest part about the second year is you can't say, 'oh, last year I remember he was doing this.' Suddenly, you had that real sense of him being gone because there was no last year," shared Winfield. 

And there will be no next year for Jason and nearly 3,000 other American servicemen and women.

"Certainly, when you hear the numbers rising and I have to think about other families having gone through the same thing that we're going through, it's just almost too much for your mind to wrap around," stated Winfield. 

December is the fifth-deadliest month for American soldiers in Iraq since the war began back in 2003. This month's number of fatalities passed the 100-mark on Thursday, bringing the total number of American soldiers killed to 2,989.

"It's just almost too much to comprehend but I think if you ever ask a mother what number is too many, she's going to tell you one...and especially if it's her one," said Winfield. 

This military mom says the climbing death toll doesn't change her opinion on the work American soldiers are doing in Iraq, even if the number of fallen heroes reaches 3,000. "I don't feel like that because we've gotten to that number that we have to pull out and run home," said Winfield. 

Jason Redifer is not the only member of his family who pursued a career in the military. His older brother Justin is a military policeman in the army who will likely go to Iraq this spring.

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