Iraq War's legacy
Sarah Renay Kynoch sees the Iraq war every time she looks at her 7-year-old daughter Savannah.
"She looks just like him and acts exactly like him," Kynoch said.
Like her father, Army Cpl. Joshua Kynoch, little Savannah brazenly snatches the last appetizer on a restaurant plate, an act some people might see as a social faux pas.
But Savannah didn't learn it from her dad, who returned to Iraq combat when she was 3days old.
Kynoch, a 23-year-old Santa Rosa native, died six months later when a bomb went off beneath his Bradley Fighting Vehicle on Oct.1, 2005. He was due home from his second combat tour in 13 weeks.
Kynoch was the sixth resident from Sonoma, Mendocino or Lake counties to die in Iraq, and six more would perish before America's combat role and the attendant drumbeat of casualties ended in December 2011.
The war that began 10 years ago Tuesday — on March 19, 2003 — has taken 4,486 American lives and left more than 32,000 service members wounded, many with long-term injuries.
Financially, the war has tapped $1.7 trillion from the U.S. Treasury to date, with future health and disability payments to veterans of $590billion, according to Brown University's Costs of War Project. The estimate includes, among other things, $770 billion in direct Department of Defense war appropriations, $402 billion in associated defense costs, $246billion in Homeland Security costs and $139 billion in debt interest.
Sarah Kynoch and others who lost a loved one recall the solace they gained when flag-waving crowds turned out in North Bay communities to salute the fallen troops and hundreds attended the funerals with rifle salutes and sounding of taps.
But some who still mourn and others who fought on hot Iraqi sand also say the war — politically divisive from its start — is fading from the nation's memory.
"I just think everybody's sick of it," said Kynoch, 31, who lives in Santa Rosa with Savannah, a second-grader, her fiance, Jose Mendez, and their daughter, Alexis, 4.
Kynoch said she cries less often, seven years after her loss, but suffers jolts of anxiety that come upon her for no apparent reason, which she considers a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Savannah calls Mendez "Dad," but also longs to know her father, who joined the Army in the wake of the Sept.11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"I tell her he's in heaven looking down at us and he loves us," Kynoch said. "She says she wishes he was hugging her."
Contemplating the war's 10th anniversary, Kynoch said she remains "proud of everybody who signed up and knew they might not come back."
Her husband enlisted "because he wanted to protect us and fight for people's freedom," she said.
Pride, commitment and courage are words veterans and family members apply to the Iraq War, but they are mixed, for some, with doubts about what it accomplished and how long the sacrifices will be remembered.
"We've already been forgotten," said Matthew Jensen of Santa Rosa, a 30-year-old former Marine who served three tours in Iraq.
The flags and cheers that greeted soldiers when they were "coming back in coffins," Jensen said, have since diminished as veterans cope with physical and psychological damage, unemployment and high rates of suicide.