By staff writer
updated 3/18/2004 6:03:27 PM ET 2004-03-18T23:03:27

For Darlene Hemingway, it’s the stuff some folks describe as “the little things” she misses the most – like watching Terry roll around on the floor with the kids or checking out a late-night movie together or going out to dinner.

And although it’s been nearly a year since a car bomb in Iraq exploded next to the Bradley tank in which Staff Sgt. Terry W. Hemingway was riding, Darlene says she and their children (Danisha, 8, Venetia, 10, and Terry Jr., 12) are still “trying to find some kind of normalcy in our lives.”

“I know this sounds hard to believe, but I still expect him to come home sometimes,” Darlene says. That’s because for the 20 years that Terry had been in the Army -- whether he had just gotten back from Korea or some other faraway place – he kept coming through that door. “A year later, we’re still trying to deal with everything, but we’re beginning to move forward. My kids keep me strong. I have to be strong for the kids.”

When Terry died April 10, 2003, he was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., with his family.  They have since moved to Delanco, N.J., just outside of Philadelphia, to be close to Terry’s mother and stepfather.

The lost of love ones
Sadly, Darlene Hemingway is one of the hundreds of American spouses who have experienced the pain of losing a loved one in Iraq and being suddenly forced to cope the best they can.

Terry Hemingway is one of 564 American troops to die in Iraq since the United States invaded that nation on March 19, 2003. Another 3,341 have been wounded, a Department of Defense official told this week.

For Iraqi families, the death and devastation is far worse. According to hospital surveys in Iraq, the death toll is an estimated 15,000, more than 4,000 of whom were civilians. The number of wounded, by some counts, is double the number of total deaths.

Just this week, several U.S. soldiers and civilian workers were killed in Iraq, and Wednesday a car bomb exploded at a Baghdad hotel, killing dozens and injuring scores more. Even U.S. governmental officials have acknowledged that the instability there makes it difficult to determine how long American troops will stay.

Hemingway, like most Americans, hopes the end is near.

“Please bring our troops home,” she urged the president. “We didn’t find weapons of mass destruction. To me, this is personal. Enough is enough! There is too much dying. Send our troops home and work it out another way!”

The rising number of American deaths, the administration’s faltering credibility over its failure to produce a cache of weapons of mass destruction and swelling dissent among politicians, many of whom initially supported the attack, appear to be hacking away at the president’s popularity.  A recent Washington Post poll showed that more than half of the American population, 53 percent, disapproved of Bush’s handling of the Iraq situation, while 44 percent felt U.S. costs have not been worth our involvement.  This is in stark contrast to when Bush saw his popularity skyrocket in the early stages of the conflict and again after U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein less than two weeks before Christmas.

Justifying the war
Recently, perhaps fueled by sagging poll numbers, the administration has taken the offensive.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice have made several high-profile media appearances in recent weeks, attempting to assure Americans that they were not deceived by the government into believing that U.S. troops are being sent to die and kill for bogus reasons. The United States, he said, is pressing for democracy to replace a notoriously brutal dictatorship, helping establish a safe and secure society, and working to repair the basic infrastructure of Iraq.

And both he and Rice have blasted the media for failing to report on the success stories rising from the rubble of the toppled regime: “Schools are being rebuilt; hospitals are being rebuilt; the infrastructure's coming back up; the oil is starting to flow,” Powell said. “We're going to jump-start the economy as fast as we can with the money that Congress has provided.”

And while the United States fully intends to turn the reigns of power in Iraq over to the newly established, democratically elected government in July, the Bush administration is totally committed to sticking with the Iraqi people throughout this volatile period, Powell said.

“We will continue to have 100,000 troops there, helping them with their security as their own security forces show greater ability to protect the population,” he said. “We'll also have a very large embassy. So we're not walking out on Iraq on the first of July. We will be with them. And what they have to do over the next several months is determine what kind of government they want to have during this interim period. And then there's a lot more to come — the writing of the full constitution, real, full national elections for an assembly and for a new government. Well, let's not discount how much we have accomplished in the last year.”

But Sen. Kerry, who is hoping to replace Bush in November, and several other leading Democrats, have said that the president has put the United States in an untenable position in Iraq.

In a speech Wednesday, Kerry said America is “bogged down in Iraq” as “the administration stubbornly holds onto its unilateral policies” that cost lives and dollars. “We have been misled…,” he said. “The answer to failure is not more of the same….”

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