The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began 10 years ago this week — on March 19, 2003 — and although officially "over," fighting continues with discouraging persistence.
By one count, the war is directly responsible for 189,000 deaths, not including those who died from hardship caused by the fighting. In all, 4,802 Americans and allies have died in the war, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, including 191 New Yorkers.
Grief still lingers for the Scherer family of East Northport, who lost their son Christopher to the bullet of an enemy sniper's gun. The sadness of losing a child never leaves, said Chris' father Tim Scherer, and sorting out the how and why is a pursuit that sometimes feels futile.
"You almost think, was it worth it? You never really know the true reasons for it," he said. "We didn't think Chris was going to deploy for his first four years and when they did that surge you know we kind of had that feeling."
Marine Corporal Chris Scherer was three years out of boot camp when he was deployed to Iraq. He lost his life far from home in the province of Al Anbar on July 21, 2007 just one month after his 21st birthday.
Since his death, his parents have established scholarships in his name and a 4-mile memorial race around the East Northport neighborhood known as "the grid," where he grew up.
"It's very difficult to move on. That's the hard part," said Tim Scherer. Scherer and his wife have continued to their involvement with the military community and other families of those who have fallen in military service.
Currently they are working on Operation Gold Star, an outreach program which matches the families of fallen soldiers with social workers. Time Scherer also works with the United Veterans Beacon House, a program that helps returned soldiers with job training and placement.
"Meeting with these guys gives you a reason to get up on the weekends," he said.
East Northport lost another native son to the Iraq War, his name now memorialized on Northport's premier theater: The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.
Army Chief Warrant Officer John Engeman was a 28-year active duty veteran and enjoyed the theater, both onstage and backstage.
While stationed in Europe he participated in the Army’s community theater, playing the traveling salesman in “Music Man," one of the bottle dancers in “Fiddler on the Roof” and he won an Army theater award for his role in a one-act play called “The Whole Shebang."
Engeman lost his life when on May 14, 2006 at the age of 45 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations in Baghdad. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart due to his death as a result of hostile enemy action in Iraq.
His sister, Patti, married theater owner Kevin O'Neill. When John was killed, the O'Neills had just purchased the theater and immediately made the decision to name the theater after John. The sign is a replica of his signature.
- CNN has a stunning map of all casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Please join Patch in remembering Marine Corporal Christopher Scherer and Army Warrant Officer John Engeman. Leave a comment at the bottom of this article to show thanks for their sacrifice.