Coral Springs' Gold Star Mother
By Bill Johnson / August 1, 2015
When two men wearing Army uniforms and solemn faces walk toward your door, you don't need them to tell you the news. Still, it strikes like a dagger in your heart. Itzhak and Beth Agami of Parkland know the pain all too well. In their case, the Army Casualty Notification Officers walked into Itzhak's place of business. Their son SPC Daniel Agami gave his life in service to his country when an explosive blew up his Bradley tank in Iraq. It was 2007 and the young man was 25 years old.
The Agamis have great reasons to be proud of Daniel's service. "He was always patriotic," his mother says. The 9/11 attacks on the U.S. were on his mind when he enlisted in 2005, while the family lived in Coral Springs.
In Iraq, Daniel Agami proved to be more than an ordinary soldier. He was a model soldier - literally. With his good looks and body build, he was selected to be a model for Army recruiting posters. When country music star Toby Keith entertained the troops in Iraq, Daniel was chosen as one of his bodyguards. Similarly, when FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly visited Iraq, he chose Daniel to be interviewed on his TV program.
Far more important, though, was Daniel's bravery in combat. He was awarded the Bronze Star after jumping from the turret of his tank to kill an insurgent throwing hand grenades at the tank. His toughness earned him the nickname the Hebrew Hammer, reflecting his Jewish heritage. But he was also known for his kindness and caring for his fellow soldiers, as he often gave away his food, energy drinks and sleeping bag to others who needed such help.
We know plenty about Daniel Agami's experience in Iraq, along with his brothers in arms, because a book was written about his company: C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, a unit that sacrificed and suffered high casualties. The book is called They Fought for Each Other. The author is a woman named Kelly Kennedy who wrote for the Army Times and was with C Company to experience everything.
The living conditions were often rough. For a time, the troops slept in the basement of a collapsed building where knee-deep water poured in when it rained. The troops had to clean up sewage from leaking pipes between patrols. At times they lived in plastic huts that provided little defense against mortars, and at least one was killed as he slept. Days included 12-hour patrols in the city of Adhamiya where they'd come under daily mortar attacks and sniper fire. What they saw and endured was anything but pretty.
When a hand grenade was thrown into a vehicle, a heroic soldier named Ross McGinnis was instantly killed when he threw himself onto the exploding weapon. Others suffered brain injuries, and had holes blown completely through their bodies. But they lived. One of them later said, "Every day of life is a gift from Ross McGinnis."
Fellow soldiers caught a 15-year-old Iraqi boy who had been paid $50 to throw the grenade. The reporter tells us that the hand grenade earned the boy $50 and Ross McGinnis the Medal of Honor.
The Americans fought an enemy that didn't wear uniforms. There was no front line. They were supposed to befriend the local people at the same time they were trying to find snipers and explosives buried in the road. In addition to their heart-wrenching experiences, Kennedy details a frustrating struggle for recovery and medical treatment that some of the soldiers endured following their time in Iraq.
A book review by award winning writer Thomas Ricks reports, "This is the saddest and strongest tale to come out of the Iraq war. Please buy it." That is not hype. The book is among the best that help us understand what we've asked our troops to do in Iraq.
Beth Agami has not read the entire book and doesn't intend to. As a Gold Star Mother, she knows enough about the pain of war. Despite the passage of time, this past Father's Day was likely a dark one for Daniel's dad, as June 21 is the anniversary of Daniel's death.
"Every day is a challenge," the Gold Star Mother says, "but we move on." She sidesteps discussion of the politics or controversy about the war in Iraq. She says simply, "We supported Daniel 100 percent. He went on a mission and was comfortable with his decision." He even re-enlisted.
Bill Johnson is career reporter, former U.S. Senate aide and public affairs assistant at the Pentagon.
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