Casey honors Pa. soldiers killed in Iraq

by Kimberly Hefling, Centre Daily Times

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Casey stood on the Senate floor Wednesday and read the names of 169 soldiers killed in Iraq with ties to Pennsylvania.

He delivered a tribute to Pennsylvanians who have died in Iraq after voting for a measure that did not advance. The measure would have guaranteed that troops who fought in Iraq be allowed to stay home as long as they had been overseas.

"Their families have loved and lost and the sharp pain of that loss may, we pray, diminish over time but the ache, the hurt, will long endure because someone they loved, someone whose strong and warm embrace gave them comfort, will not be there any longer," said Casey, D-Pa.

Casey noted that Pennsylvania has the third-highest number of soldiers killed in Iraq compared with other states, and that more than 1,100 Pennsylvanians have been wounded.

He told the story of a wounded Pennsylvania National Guard soldier he'd visited in the hospital, Joshua Humberger, 20, of Grapeville. Despite sharp pain related to an amputation at his left knee and other injuries, Humberger said he wanted to go back to Iraq, Casey said.

"Where do these young men and women find their strength?" Casey said. "I don't know, because it's hard for me to comprehend or fully appreciate such courage."

In his successful campaign last year against Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, Casey did not advocate for an immediate withdrawal of troops or to cut off war funding. He still has not, but he has supported measures that would bring most troops home by April 2008.

In January, he came out in opposition to President Bush's plan that increased troop strength in Iraq. He later joined a bipartisan group of senators seeking to give diplomacy a greater role in stabilizing Iraq by making the Iraq Study Group's recommendations official U.S. policy.