Cover Story

Our blood and treasure

"Our blood and treasure" Continued...

Issue: "Iraq: Fallujah's fallen," Nov. 27, 2004

Even some Sunnis have condemned the violent uprisings. Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib, himself a Sunni, called the insurgency a "campaign to divide this country and thrust it into a civil war."

Though the American-led coalition swept to a swift military victory in Fallujah, "winning the military action is only part of the story," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. "The political battle of Fallujah will be fought out over a period of months, not days or weeks . . . in the context of developing Iraq's constitution and establishing some form of federalism that is acceptable to the Sunnis."

And even if American troops do stamp out visible resistance in the coming weeks, insurgents may regroup and lie in wait, Mr. Cordesman said, to reemerge in time for elections in January. "Why stand and die against professional U.S. troops when you can live and win against weak Iraqi Interim Government Officials and security forces?" he said.

In a picture he took of his own face after the car bomb killed his boot camp buddy from L.A., Abraham Simpson appeared near tears. But the face of the 2003 Southland Christian School graduate and Eagle Scout also revealed a new, steely resolve. The photo was one of about 700 Abraham sent to his family back in California.

Serving in and around Fallujah since June, Abraham and his squad were assigned to the suburb of Al Kharma, where they worked to shape local Iraqi police into corruption-free protectors of their own people. That meant Abraham was working outside his normal job description, mortarman. Ironically, insurgents rained mortar fire on the Al Kharma compound almost every night.

One day, while most of his squad played football in the compound, Abraham was sitting inside looking at photographs when he heard the ominous whistle of an inbound mortar round. The projectile exploded in the middle of the football game, killing Abraham's squad leader and wounding six others.

That was how Abraham wound up working as a mortarman again. The attack so decimated his squad that they left Al Kharma and joined a larger unit, this one preparing for the massive November ground assault on Fallujah.

That was fine with Abraham, his mother said. He'd always wanted to be out front with the infantry, "getting the job done." He was killed by hostile fire at the beginning of the Fallujah assault-one of 48 Marine deaths tallied halfway through November, and one of six Marines killed in Fallujah who were 19 years old.

The Marine Corps hasn't yet released the details of how Abraham died in Fallujah, but plenty of people have come forward to tell how he lived. James Gibbons, 21, met Abraham at Calvary Chapel of Chino Hills, where the Simpsons were members. With Abraham, Mr. Gibbons told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, "You felt you didn't give back as much as you received."

After a missions trip with Southland Christian School to an area of Los Angeles ravaged by homelessness, Abraham, then a high-school junior, came home with new purpose. He hadn't even wanted to go on the trip-his parents made him. But when his mother picked him up, the first thing he said was, "Thanks for making me go." He didn't know exactly when it had happened, but the trip changed his life, he told her: He had become excited about sharing his faith.

Abraham had long planned to join the Marines after graduation. "He felt God would use him in the Marine Corps," Mrs. Simpson told WORLD one week after his death. One squad-mate wrote the Simpsons to say he planned, on Abraham's advice, to bring his family to Calvary Chapel when he returned stateside. A friend at West Point wrote to say he had been inspired by Abraham's commitment to Christ. Still another said Abraham's behavior in boot camp-he didn't curse like the others-set a memorable example.

"He wasn't perfect," said Mrs. Simpson. "He was an ordinary kid in many ways, but he always had a heart to do what was right."

On Nov. 1, eight days before his death, Maria Simpson received a brief e-mail from her son. It was a how's-everything kind of note telling his parents that he'd moved to nicer living quarters. But since his death, the e-mail's ending has struck Mrs. Simpson again and again: "I'm in a better place now. I thought you'd like to know. Love, Abraham."

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