Military families weigh in on Saddam’s death

Stephanie Dostie says she thinks it’s ironic that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed on the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. “I think it was a very generous death for him,” said Dostie, whose husband, Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Christopher Dostie, was killed in Iraq in a blast from an improvised explosive device on Dec. 30, 2005. “He got his last prayer. He got his last meal.”

As word of Saddam’s execution spread across the globe, soldiers and family members still grieving over the loss of relatives said they found little comfort in the death of the man the military once called High Value Target No. 1.

“Does it mean the mission is accomplished? Does it mean our soldiers can leave Iraq? Does it mean no more soldiers have to die?” said Jane Bright of Los Angeles, whose son, Army Sgt. Evan Ashcraft, was killed in Iraq on July 24, 2003.

“I don’t know what it accomplishes,” she said. “It has nothing to do with sympathy toward Saddam Hussein, I just don’t understand where’s the value in what we’ve done.”

Nancy Hollinsaid, 54, from Malden, Ill., knows Saddam’s death will not bring back her son, Army Staff Sgt. Lincoln Hollinsaid, who was killed in a grenade attack early in the war.

Before Saddam’s execution, Hollinsaid said she wanted to see the former Iraqi leader dead. Afterward, she said she hopes some good will come from his death.

“It’s closure for a lot of people,” she said. “It maybe brings everyone a little closer to some kind of peace or relief.”

Soldiers and relatives of those killed in Iraq offered mixed assessments of what Saddam’s death will mean for the future of the war and the Iraqi people.

“The court system in Iraq made its own decision. They are their own government now,” said Capt. Mike Conner, 31, of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. “It proves that they’re capable of coming to their own judgment and upholding their own court ruling. We just stepped out of the way and let them do what they saw fit.”

Capt. Hiram Lewis, who served with the West Virginia National Guard’s 111th Engineer Group in Iraq, said it’s important that the sentence came from an Iraqi court, rather than from the U.S.

“I think, ultimately, justice was served,” he said.

Saddam’s death probably will not mean a quick end to the fighting in Iraq, said Maj. Antonio D. Vega, 45, of Gary, Ind.

“Like the president said when we started this, it’s going to take a long road,” he said. “It probably means for the Iraqi people they can close this chapter and move on to a more democratic government.”

For some families of those who died in Iraq, Friday’s execution helped quell their grief.

Martin Terrazas, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, was killed in Iraq in 2005, said it makes his loss a little easier to accept.

“It makes me feel good about it,” Terrazas, of El Paso, Texas, said before the execution. “I hope a lot of families get closure to their loss.”

Dostie said her two children, a 6-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, watched television with her as word of Saddam’s death spread.

“My son just said that he was glad that Saddam was gone,” she said. “They understand it and they feel justification behind it.”


Associated Press National Writer Adam Geller in New York and Associated Press writers Alicia Caldwell in El Paso, Texas and Erin Gartner in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press