Paul Szoldra — Business Insider Jan 3, 2014
It was probably chilly that December day in Fallujah back in 2004. A man you probably never heard of, Lance Cpl. Franklin Sweger — along with thousands of Marines and soldiers — was engaged in some of the worst combat since Vietnam.
“Everything’s OK mom, don’t worry about me,” he told his mother two weeks before. “I think I’m going to make it.”
In less than ten days, the city would be for the most part, secure. Its residents would need years to rebuild after the destruction, and its children would see an astronomical rise in birth defects and other abnormalities.
But for Sweger, Dec. 16 would be the last day to fight. “He was the one who was kicking in the doors and going in first,” his father Frank Sweger told MySanAntonio.
Along with his infantry platoon from 1st Battalion 3rd Marines, he was going house-to-house, kicking in doors as he had likely done since the battle had started on Nov. 7. But as he entered one room, friends told me later, he was shot and killed by an insurgent lying in wait.
He was on his last deployment and would’ve gone on to college. He was funny, a good person, and just 24 years old. Why did he die?
The battle was the second assault that year on the then-lawless city of Fallujah. Called Operation Phantom Fury (Operation Al Fajr in Arabic, or The Dawn), it was a full-scale attack on a city teeming with insurgents who had months to prepare defenses, booby traps, and explosives throughout the city.
When it was all over, American and friendly forces suffered more than 100 killed and more than 600 wounded. The Red Cross estimated 800 Iraqi civilian deaths. Insurgent deaths were much greater than both but impossible to count.
Why did they die?
The invasion of Iraq was predicated on the notion of ridding the Hussein regime of “weapons of mass destruction” of course. But in 2004, the game was changed to counterinsurgency — ridding the world of “the terrorists.”