David Wood captures the heartbreak of sending to war young men who only recently were boys:
I sometimes forget how young they are. A few years ago, I was lazing in the dust with a bunch of Marines during a break in training. Already combat veterans, they were about to deploy back to Iraq. They'd been practicing getting ambushed and killing the ambushers, and now they were chatting about computer games.
"Hey, did'ja ever get 'Gears of War'?" asked Louis Duran, 19.
"Nah, I was gonna," said his buddy, Steven Aspling, 20, "but my mom wouldn't let me."
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Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.