March 27, 2003

Wyden Honors Oregonians' Sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Mr. WYDEN. Madam President, in the early stages of the conflict with Iraq, my State of Oregon is already mourning, already forced to count the cost of this war in real and human terms. This morning I expressed my condolences to the families and friends of all of those who have given their lives in this war, but I particularly recognize the brave soldiers being mourned today by the people of Oregon. Army Reserve Specialist Brandon Tobler, who was only 19, lost his life in a humvee accident during a sand storm. Brandon was the only son of Leo and Gail Tobler of Portland. He grew up there and joined the military to help pay for college. He was in a convoy headed to Baghdad providing engineering support to the combat troops. Private Tobler's death reminds us that a soldier doesn't have to be on the combat line to face tremendous danger and possible death. It reminds us how brave each and every person who puts on a uniform for the United States must be regardless of their particular assignment. MAJ Gregory Stone Air National Guard MAJ Gregory Stone was a 20-year veteran of military service. He was killed in the grenade attack at the base of the 101st Airborne in Kuwait. He leaves behind two young sons today, Evan and Joshua, as well as his mother in Ontario -- who I just spoke with -- and others across our State who loved him dearly. Major Stone graduated from Oregon State University, and from Benson High School in my hometown of Portland. He died far from the front lines, but again, called to sacrifice in war.SGT Donald Walters Army SGT Donald Walters is now missing in action after his convoy was ambushed in Southern Iraq. His wife and kids are in Missouri. His parents, Norman and Arlene, are in Salem, Oregon, awaiting word on his safety. Sergeant Walters comes from a family with a rich tradition of service across the military, including the Army, Navy, and the Air Force. He is a specialist in decontamination. His convoy was moving to support troops in battle when they took a wrong turn into terrible circumstances. The people of Oregon now are praying for his family and his friends. I join with all of them in hoping for his safe return.Each of these very brave Oregonians, in my view, is an example of the best of the American spirit. We mourn the deaths of those killed. We pray for the safe return of Sergeant Walters and, above all, we give thanks for all of those living as well, who still serve so bravely in this time of war.Madam President, the special people who are serving our country cross generations, and they represent every ethnic group. They serve in a wide variety of capacities. Some come from Reserve units or the National Guard. Others are in the permanent services. They are members of very different fighting forces -- Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. Amidst all of this diversity, there is so much that they share -- especially a deep love for our country, and a common willingness to risk their lives for the lives of others. Together, they stand between the citizens of our Nation and those who would do America harm. They all know that at any time they could be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. Yet, each day, they go in and put their uniform on and charge into harm's way for all of our sakes. Throughout American history, members of our military have made the sacrifices that allow our great Republic to survive. Today, as the pictures of this war play out on television screens across the Nation, people in this country can see as never before just what a war requires of men and women who fight on behalf of all of us. As we watch, it is important to remember these images are not created in Hollywood. They are the actions of real human beings. The soldiers are real people, loved by countless Americans here at home who worry every single hour for their safety, and mourn them when they are lost.I will close today by expressing my gratitude to all of the Americans who serve our great Nation, and take special time today to reflect on the contributions of the Oregonians we have lost. Our concern for the missing people of this country today is great. The people I represent at home in Oregon offer their prayers every day for the success of the mission of those who serve and for their safe and speedy return.I yield the floor.