The Families Left Behind

Snow tops a pumpkin carved for Halloween that sits on the rail outside a home in Denver as an autumn storm dumps up to two feet of snow on parts of the intermountain West on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Private First Class Howard Johnson Jr. went directly into the army from high school. And his recent deployment to the Persian Gulf was his first trip outside of the United States.

On Sunday, the 21-year-old soldier was killed when, according to the Pentagon, Iraqi forces ambushed his unit near An Nasiriyah. His father Howard and his sister Zsaquez talked to The Early Show from Mobile, Alabama about their fallen relative.

Rev. Johnson says he last talked to his son last week.

"I regret not being able to look and see the expression on his
face," says Rev. Johnson. "He said to me, 'How are you doing, daddy?' I said, 'I'm okay.' And he said, 'I'm doing fine, too.'"

The young soldier told his father he was glad he went to the Army to see parts of the world.

"I reminded him to stay prayed up, to keep the Lord on his side so that the Lord could do his fighting for him," says Rev. Johnson. "He told me, 'Dad I got all that together. I have a job to do. And I'm prepared to do it."

Johnson's sister says she is devastated about the loss of her brother.

"He loved my sister and myself," says Zsaquez. "And we're just going to miss him."

"I have learned to be grateful to the lord for all things because I believe that the lord gives and the lord taketh away," says Rev. Johnson. "And the lord answered my prayer. I prayed for a son for 17 years. And I promised the lord that if he would give me a son, I would
give him back to him. I didn't know it would be this way."

The Reverend says he was happy to live to see his boy become a man, and he is proud of the way his son died.

Marine Staff Sgt. Phillip Jordan was another U.S. soldier killed in battle near An Nasiryah.

"He just loved the Marine Corps," his wife, Amanda, told The Early Show Wednesday. "He made his whole life the Marine Corps."

The 42-year-old had fought in Operations Desert Storm in 1991, and his wife says he was not afraid to go back.

"He was in the Gulf before, and he wasn't afraid to go this time. And I felt that's what he needed to do," she says.

Marine Corps Randall Kent Rosacker chose the Marines because he wanted to be on the front lines, said his sister, Samantha. Her brother was also among the dead.

"He wanted to be up front so he could be before everybody else, make sure he cleared the way to make it safe for everybody else behind him," she said.

His father, Navy Command Master Chief Rod Rosacker, said his son knew the risks. "He basically expressed to me if he didn't come back that what he wanted as far as a burial and where he wanted to be buried at, and I took that all down. That's what we're going to do."

As a military man himself, he said, he knows his son's sacrifice is for a better tomorrow for the Iraqi people.

"We've got to make something better out of this world, out of this, to make it worthwhile. That's what he was out there to do and I'm hoping that's what happens--we come out victorious and we make it better for those people that are over there. That's what it's all about," he said.

Samantha Rosacker added, "He was over there for everybody. The reason he was fighting was for the people that are against this war, the people that are against the military. He was there for everybody. Everyone. He just wanted everybody to be free regardless of what their standpoint was."