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Military death toll declines in Afghanistan, families coping

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Updated: 12/14/2012 9:18 am Published: 12/13/2012 10:57 pm

The military death toll in Afghanistan has decreased over the last three years; meantime Gold Star Mothers, like Owasso’s Colleen Stevens are coping through the holidays. 

Since 2001, when troops entered Afghanistan, the United States military has lost 2,035 service men and women.  In 2010 the U.S. military lost 506 members.  In 2011, 413 died and in 2012, so far, 306 have died, all served in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense attributes the decrease to the military reversal of the Taliban’s momentum.  

"… Casualties were higher from 2009-2010 because we invaded areas where the Taliban held control.  Since then we have trained Afghan forces, growing from 100,000 Afghan national security forces to 350,000 forces,” said William Speaks a representative with the Department of Defense. 

“The numbers are good but if you ask any parent the numbers are better when their kids come home, or spouses come home,” said Stevens as she talked about her fourth holiday season without her son, Sgt. Schuyler B. Patch of the Oklahoma and Illinois Army National Guard.  He was killed in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province on February 24, 2009.  Every Christmas, Stevens never fails to buy her son a gift.

“Schuyler gets a present every year and an ornament goes up for him,” said Stevens.  “I used to buy him this Banquet ready to eat chicken alfredo, and he loved it, so I buy it and wrap it up!  When he was in Afghanistan I would send it to him.”

She feels his presence all the time. 

“He is still here, and I talk to him all the time,” said Stevens. 

She mentioned there was a sign of him with her before FOX23 News arrived at Stevens’s home for the interview. 

“Right before you came there was a dime on the coffee table,” said Stevens. 

“What does that mean?” asked FOX23 News reporter Danica Lawrence.

“Schuyler was terrible with money, and you know about pennies from heaven, well Schuyler leaves us dimes everywhere!” explained Stevens. “The other day my youngest son lost his wallet and then went searching everywhere, finally he went outside and walked back in and there it was, sitting on the table with a dime on top of it!  And we always find them in the dryer even though my husband always cleans out his pocket for loose change!  It’s so crazy; people think I’m crazy but it’s true!  It’s a reminder that he is with us.”

Stevens asked for one Christmas wish this year, and it’s not for her. 

“Remember the guys over seas; their wives and their families, don't forget about them,” said Stevens they cannot be home for Christmas, Schuyler cannot be home for Christmas."

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