Nevada's war dead since '01 mirrors U.S. population

For Nevada, the war in Iraq has hit close to home with the Silver State keeping pace with the rest of the nation in shouldering its share of casualties, a breakdown of Operation Iraqi Freedom war dead shows.

In light of the more than 530 U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq the past six months, the highest rate since the war began, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., had hoped to no avail this week to persuade President Bush to adopt a "strategy worthy of the sacrifices being made by U.S. troops and finding a responsible end to the war in Iraq."

On Thursday, he declared, "This war is lost, and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq."

In the span from October through March, six with ties to Nevada were killed in Iraq, according to Pentagon listings tracked by the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an independent U.S.-based Web site.

Marine Lance Cpl. Raul S. Bravo of Elko was the last and only one this year. He was killed by a roadside bomb explosion near Qaim on March 3, not far from where another Las Vegas Marine, 26-year-old Cpl. William I. Salazar, was killed in a suicide car bomb attack on Oct. 15, 2004.

That was two weeks before the deadliest month of the war, November 2004, when 137 U.S. troops were killed, including 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas H. Anderson, of Las Vegas.

Families of the fallen have described them as dedicated and patriotic. In the words of Bravo's mother, Joy Marsico, he "died fighting for what he believed in."

Likewise, 19-year-old John Lukac wanted "to make a difference," his family noted days after he was killed in a car bomb explosion with seven other Marines in the fall of 2004 near Fallujah, Iraq.

And Salazar was "a rifleman first," his comrades said before he was buried.

While most died in combat others died in accidents in the war zone.

Marine Lance Cpl. Richard Perez died in a vehicle accident as did Army National Guard Spc. Anthony S. Cometa.

And another, Army Cpl. Joseph L. Martinez "was the consummate professional soldier, the go-to-guy," his platoon leader said after the 21-year-old soldier was killed by small arms fire Aug. 27, 2005 in Tal Afar, Iraq.

In all, 48 U.S. military personnel with ties to Nevada have died in the nation's wars overseas since Sept. 11, 2001.

Most of them -- 38 -- were killed in Iraq or Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They represent roughly 1 percent of the overall toll on U.S. troops -- 3,315 -- since the 2003 invasion. That's on par with Nevada's ratio to the U.S. population.

By service, of the 38, there were 22 soldiers, 15 Marines and one airman.