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2 G.I.'s, Skeptical but Loyal, Die in a Truck Crash in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 — “Engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act,” the seven soldiers wrote of the war they had seen in Iraq.

They were referring to the ordeals of Iraqi citizens, trying to go about their lives with death and suffering all around them. But sadly, although they did not know it at the time, they might almost have been referring to themselves.

Two of the soldiers who wrote of their pessimism about the war in an Op-Ed article that appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 19 were killed in Baghdad on Monday. They were not killed in combat, nor on a daring mission. They died when the five-ton cargo truck in which they were riding overturned.

The victims, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26, and Sgt. Omar Mora, 28, were among the authors of “The War as We Saw It,” in which they expressed doubts about reports of progress.

“As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day,” the soldiers wrote.

Sergeant Gray’s mother, Karen Gray, said by telephone on Wednesday from Ismay, Mont., where Yance grew up, “My son was a soldier in his heart from the age of 5,” and she added, “He loved what he was doing.”

The sergeant’s father, Richard, said of his son, “But he wasn’t any mindless robot.”

Sergeant Gray leaves a wife, Jessica, and a daughter, Ava, born in April. He is also survived by a brother and a sister.

Sergeant Mora’s mother, Olga Capetillo of Texas City, Tex., told The Daily News in Galveston that her son had grown increasingly gloomy about Iraq. “I told him God is going to take care of him and take him home,” she said.

A native of Ecuador, Sergeant Mora had recently become an American citizen. “He was proud of this country, and he wanted to go over and help,” his stepfather, Robert Capetillo, told The Houston Chronicle. Sergeant Mora leaves a wife, Christa, and a daughter, Jordan, who is 5. Survivors also include a brother and a sister.

While the seven soldiers were composing their article, one of them, Staff Sgt. Jeremy A. Murphy, was shot in the head. He was flown to a military hospital in the United States and is expected to survive. The other authors were Buddhika Jayamaha, an Army specialist, and Sgts. Wesley D. Smith, Jeremy Roebuck and Edward Sandmeier.

“We need not talk about our morale,” they wrote in closing. “As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

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