‘Was it worth it?’ Parents of fallen Marine help vets cope amid war’s crushing end | National News
They crossed open fields, using irrigation canals for cover. After sending half his squad safely ahead, Johnson tapped Catherwood on the helmet and said: “Let’s go.”
After running just three steps, he said, gunfire from ambushing Taliban fighters sounded behind them. Johnson looked down and saw a bullet hole in his pants where he had been shot in the leg. Then came a deafening explosion — one of the Marines had stepped on a hidden bomb. Johnson blacked out momentarily, waking up in the water.
Another explosion followed. Looking to his left, Johnson saw Catherwood floating facedown. It was obvious, he said, that the young Marine was dead.
Explosions during the ambush killed another Marine, Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez of Rosamond, California, and badly wounded another.
Back in the United States, Staff Sergeant Steve Bancroft began an excruciating two-hour drive toward Catherwood’s parents’ house in northern Illinois. He’d served seven months in Iraq before he became a casualty assistance officer, tasked with notifying families of a death on the battlefield.
“I’d never wish that on anybody, I can’t express that enough: I do not wish looking a mom and dad in the face and telling them their only son is gone,” said Bancroft, who is now retired.
He was stoic when he had to be, as he escorted families to Dover, Delaware, to watch coffins be rolled out of a plane. But when he was alone, he cried. And he still weeps when he thinks about the moment he arrived at the home of Gretchen and Kirk Catherwood.