“He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Like most troops of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Sims had been in Iraq on a previous tour of duty. The Covington, Ky., native graduated high school in 2003 and married the following year, just before heading out on his first tour in Iraq.And in an instant he was gone.
Some Marines carry "lucky charms" with them to keep them safe. Sims said he carried only two things at all times: a cross and most importantly his wedding band, which he wore on a necklace.
"It didn't fail me last time I was in Iraq," he said one day this month, turning the wedding band around and around in his fingers, just a few weeks into his second deployment.
On April 15, Sims was on the way to Government Center, manning his turret as he rolled through the city, past U.S. observation posts and destroyed buildings flattened by U.S. airstrikes or shot up by insurgent weapons fire.
As they pulled through a deep moat of sewage water just outside a gate at Government Center in the lead Humvee, Sims was on the gun turret facing the buildings around them, providing security for the convoy.
Just before they entered the compound, a rocket-propelled grenade came out of nowhere, killing him instantly.
In the dark dust of that moment, "time stood still," said an Iraqi interpreter who was with them at the time, a bespectacled man more than twice the age of the Marines. The interpreter declined to be named for fear of reprisals for working with Americans in Iraq.
The driver and the vehicle commander were fine. The interpreter, sitting in the back seat, was hit by shrapnel in the arm and leg. Some shrapnel hit a pistol in a holster on his hip. The pistol may have saved his life.
Hours later, deeply saddened, the interpreter sat against a wall in a blue chair near where Sims' Humvee was often parked at Hurricane Point.
There were bandages around his arm and leg, blood covering his boots. "He was like a son to me," the interpreter said. "He had his whole life ahead of him."
Justin Sims was just 22 years old.
How many more young men must time stand still for?
When will our leaders treat our soldiers like their sons?
Our sons were not created to die young in an unjust war for oil. They deserve better.
Who among our leaders will demand it for them?
And if there are none, then let us be among those who demand it for themselves.
NO MORE of OUR BLOOD for THEIR OIL and for Israel.