WORLD / Middle East

Iraq war widows seek strength amid loss
Updated: 2006-05-29 19:16

War lives on long after the last clods of dirt turn over a soldier's grave. It hangs from the faces of husbands and wives ! mostly wives ! whose lives crumble after foreign horrors take their spouses.

Kimberly Hazelgrove, who lost her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Brian D. Hazelgrove, in a helicopter crash near Mosul in January 2004, stands in her Lorton, Va., home on Tuesday, April 18, 2006. Hazelgrove knew exactly why officers in dress uniforms came to her door. It was a reality of a soldier's life at war, one she and her husband both recognized before he deployed to Iraq with the Army's 10th Mountain Division. [AP]

Those who lost husbands early have been living their grief, raising children without fathers and building futures with memories of hard men who turned soft with children.

For those recently widowed, grief chokes out the hope.

Here are sketches of some of the wives whose soldier husbands were killed in Iraq, and the complex changes they felt after hearing simple words ! "Ma'am, we regret to inform you ..."


Kathy Kennedy stopped crying for her husband on the anniversary of his death.

Surrounded by friends at a backyard campfire she held one year after his helicopter was shot down near Tikrit, they exchanged stories, told jokes and laughed.

At that moment, things felt different for the first time since his death.

"I felt, 'we made it through a year, we're going to make it again,'" she says now, two and a half years after the death of her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Kyran E. Kennedy, 43, of Boston.

Kennedy, a pilot in the 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, was flying a Black Hawk over Tikrit in November 2003 when he was shot down. Three others died in the crash.

The years since have brought a purpose to life with her two children, she said, even if it's only to remember the man she married and loved and pass on those memories to his children who barely knew him.

Her oldest son, Christopher, then 11, told her quietly in the moments after they learned the news that they would have to remember his father for the youngest boy in the family, who was too young to remember anything.

Even with pictures and stories, there are challenges.

When Kevin, now 6, reminisces with the family, he contributes memories of hunting outings with his father that never happened. He recalls with vivid clarity scuba diving with his dad at a time when he could barely swim.

These are memories he would have had, and they will pass ! just like her tears have dried up in exchange for smiles through the years, Kennedy said.

Her family will find normalcy in unordinary circumstances. It will just take time.

"We're not forever going to be that family whose husband was killed in Iraq," she said.
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