Mary Shea of Sonoma wrote a magazine article published in 2004 on the agony of having a son serving in the Iraq War. Army Ranger Cpl. Timothy Shea, 22, was killed in action the following year. Here is an excerpt:

"The casualties inexorably mount. With such a huge time difference between the Middle East and where we live, I wake every morning with gratitude. The night has been kind. For us there was no official notification of any injury or death. But I also approach the morning newspaper in our driveway with dread, knowing full well that when I read the paper I will learn that some other mother, some other family, has been notified by a casualty assistance officer of news no one should ever hear.

"And I could not, cannot turn away from those hauntingly beautiful Air Force photographs of the flag-draped coffins on the C-130 transport planes that caused such a media furor when they surfaced. What mother would ever turn away? One day, such a photo could very well be the last glimpse, the last visible record of my own son's existence."