U.S. Central Command confirmed that three marines were killed and one injured when their helicopter crashed in Southern Iraq en route to a support mission. A spokesperson for Central Command said the cause of the crash was not enemy fire.
Bill Sikonia, who spent many years jumping out of the U-H One Huey, the very kind of helicopter the marines were killed in, says the parents of those soldiers should feel proud of their children.
The retired staff sergeant says his experience in the military changed his life.
"This is me, hanging out the door," Sikonia said, holding up a picture of himself nearly 20 years ago. "I was the primary jumpmaster, ensuring our course is straight."
Sikonia is a disabled veteran, who spent 16 years in the service before he retired, seven of them in the army's 82nd airborn division. It was during a jump that he injured his back and became disabled, although he says getting hurt was not the most difficult part of his time as a soldier.
"Through the service," Sikonia remembered, "the hardest times were the times away from the family."
As he watches news coverage on the war with Iraq, the father of two daughters says he feels U.S. forces are doing well.
"We've got Baghdad completely surrounded. The south is starting to look free again," Sikonia said.
Sikonia says the men and women who've lost their lives defending the U.S. should be honored, and he salutes the marines who went down in the desert on Sunday.
Sikonia says he'll be watching the news in Iraq even more carefully in the months ahead, because his 20-year-old daughter Theresea, also in the army, is due to complete jump school soon.