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N.C. soldier, 23, was last U.S. Iraq War death
And she sees him in the 4-year-old daughter he left behind, who is now 12. Lexie Gifford’s thin frame and face are miniature versions of her father’s, her smile a replica of his. She has the same slow, I’ll-get-there-when-I-get-there walk. For a reason nobody understands, a while back started popping frozen French fries in her mouth just like her dad used to do.
“I’ll probably sit and cry,” said Mrs. Langley, 58. “I’ll be happy for the ones you can be happy for and sad for the ones you are sad for.”
Mrs. Langley’s life has been one catastrophe after another since her son died. The next year her husband died. Then months later, doctors told her the reason she was feeling poorly was that her kidneys had shut down. That was followed by a fall and a broken back. Today, as she waits for her name to come up on a list for a kidney transplant, she gets around the house she shares with her mother in a motorized scooter.
The one thing she doesn’t have, she said, is guilt. Though she talked her son out of enlisting in the military a couple times over the years, the reasons began and ended with concerns about the safety for her only child.
But after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, she knew there would be no talking him out of enlisting. Besides, she said, “If I was young enough I would have gone in, too.”
“When I talked with him on the phone a week before, he wasn’t unhappy about where he was or regretting being there at all,” Mr. Trainum said. “It was just going to work for him, and he was looking forward to getting his work done and getting home.”
“He popped out of a Christmas box,” she said of the Christmas just before Gifford was deployed, when he hid inside a large box to surprise his daughter. “He was tall. He had brown hair. He was nice.”
The losses linger for people who saw the flag-draped coffins come home.
Don Babwin reported from Decatur, Ill. Associated Press news researcher Monika Mathur contributed to this report.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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