(WBIR) The recent fighting in Iraq has opened fresh wounds for the family of an East Tennessee Marine who fought and died in the Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
"It is amazing to me that it's still such an emotional topic after all of this time, but it is," said Gary Strader, father of Sergeant Morgan W. Strader. "We have given so much."
Sgt. Morgan Strader was a 2000 graduate of Cumberland County High School in Crossville and enlisted in the Marines. In November 2004, he died as a member of the Marines who led the fight against insurgents who controlled Fallujah. The battle was the deadliest of the Iraq War and featured some of the heaviest urban combat for U.S. forces since Vietnam. The fight wounded more than 560 and killed 95 Americans.
"He [Morgan] could have gotten out in July 2004, but he elected to go back with his unit because they were going back into harm's way and he wanted to be with them," said Gary Strader in July 2013 when Crab Orchard named a bridge in Sgt Morgan Strader's honor.
In a telephone interview Friday afternoon from his home in Indiana, Gary Strader told 10News he has always maintained an emotional attachment and personal interest in Fallujah since his son's death. The recent news of Al Qaeda militants seizing control of the city his son died to free was particularly difficult.
"When I saw the news last weekend that Fallujah had been overtaken again by Al Qaeda, it was a shot to the heart. You know, it was really disturbing. With the blood our sons and daughters shed for that city, you would hope that there would be some lasting development there that everyone could be proud of," said Strader.
Gary Strader said whatever happens to Fallujah now or in the future will not alter the value of his son's sacrifice.
"Our men and women who gave so much there are not diminished by what has happened since. They did the best that they could. They gave those people an opportunity they did not have before with the ability to take over their own affairs again. And their service not only to the people of the United States but also to the people of Iraq and Fallujah, it is not diminished by any of the things that have happened since."
Strader said while he still wants the best for the people of Fallujah, he also understands "we cannot control everything in the world."
Sgt. Morgan Strader's surviving family members mostly reside in Indiana. His grandparents, Onza and Estelle Morgan, are residents of Crab Orchard.