It wasn't an easy task for Army Lt. Col. Robert Forrester to speak to reporters outside the main gate at Fort Hood in Texas.
"The first team suffered a great loss this past week with the passing of our soldiers and heavy action in Baghdad,” Forrester said.
The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, lost eight soldiers this week as fighting intensified in Iraq. Seven soldiers died Sunday and one Tuesday as coalition forces tried to quell violence in Iraq's so-called Sunni Triangle.
Unfortunately, the casualties suffered at Fort Hood were just one part of one of the worst weeks for American forces in Iraq since the height of the war a year ago. At least 40 Americans, two other coalition soldiers and more than 460 Iraqis were killed during intense fighting this week.
Only grief comes home
Now, some of the same volunteer support teams who saw the troops off will become grief counselors for their families.
Forrester said with so many deaths at one time, even the Army counselors are stretched thin. "It does put a strain on the counselors, and again when we've needed help, we've gone to the Fort Hood installation and they've provided us tremendous support.”
To date, 65 soldiers based at Fort Hood have lost their lives in the Iraq conflict. In the meantime, some family members of those still deployed say despite the absence of their loved ones’ names from the most recent casualties lists, restful nights still don't come easy.
Worry touches all
Robert Bailey operates a small thrift store near the Army post. He's thankful that his son, stationed near Baghdad, has survived the conflict.
But he worries about what tomorrow will bring. “You never know when you're [a military parent] what’s going to be next,... [when] you're going to get that phone call."
Craft shop owner Stephanie Stanek is relieved that her son-in-law, stationed inside Baghdad, also survived the latest attacks. But, as she fought back tears, she still worried about the potential for bad news.
“My heart goes out to anybody — and now myself because I have a son-in-law there," she said. “I worry about him. My daughter is in Lawton [Okla.] at Fort Sill taking care of their three little kids on her own.”
The Army prepares its soldiers for, among other things, the possibility of not coming back home. The young recruits try to put their families at ease.
But Copperas Cove, Texas, resident Jason Vaughan said deep down inside, you’re never ready for bad news.
"A lot of my friends went over there thinking nothing was going to happen — that they were going to be safe. But they come to realize that it’s not just going to be an easy job,” said Vaughan.
And for Forrester, it’s certainly no easy job to face the families of eight young soldiers the morning after.