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Iraq crash kills 2 Army war critics

Soldiers helped write op-ed piece

TEXAS CITY, Texas - Two sergeants who helped write a New York Times op-ed article sharply critical of the Pentagon's assessment of the Iraq war were killed in a Baghdad crash this week, and one grieving mother wants the Army to explain their deaths.

"I want to know all the details of how he died. I want to know the truth," said Olga Capetillo, whose 28-year-old son, Sergeant Omar Mora, died Monday along with six other soldiers and two detainees. "I don't understand how so many people could die in that accident. How could it be so bad?"

Mora and coauthor Sergeant Yance T. Gray, 26, of Ismay, Mont., were among the nine who died Monday when their truck veered off an elevated highway in western Baghdad and fell about 30 feet, the military said. The single-vehicle crash also wounded 11 other soldiers and a detainee.

The military made no mention of hostile fire. A call to an Army spokesman seeking comment yesterday was not immediately returned.

Since coauthoring the critical Aug. 19 article with six other active-duty US soldiers, she said, Mora had seemed increasingly depressed and withdrawn.

"I said to him: 'Son, I don't want you to have problems because of this. Hopefully, nothing will happen,' " said Capetillo, speaking in Spanish and palpably grieving.

The Times piece, called "The War As We Saw It," expressed doubts about American gains in Iraq. "To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched," the group wrote.

In the last line, the authors reaffirmed their commitment: "We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through."

Another coauthor, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Murphy, was shot in the head while the article was being written. The Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader was flown to a military hospital in the United States and is expected to survive.

Mora and Gray, members of the 82d Airborne Division, joined the military out of a sense of duty and selflessness, people who knew them said. Both were married and leave behind young daughters.

Mora, a permanent legal resident, received his citizenship papers two weeks ago and was waiting to be sworn as a US citizen when his deployment ended in November.

"My son gave his life for this country. He was proud of this country, even though he was not an American yet," said Capetillo, who emigrated from Ecuador when Mora was 2.

In April, he came home for two weeks to recover after his ears were damaged by a roadside bomb. Then in August, back in Iraq, a friend died in Mora's arms, leaving a grim imprint, Capetillo said.

An unusually subdued Mora had called his mother Friday, and the two spoke for what would be the last time.

Gray's relatives said he felt so strongly about the Army that he reenlisted two or three years ago. He loved being in uniform, and they said writing the op-ed piece must have been a difficult decision.

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