Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas

He was just a child. 22 years old. The DoD reports very little information about him:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, died Dec. 28 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds received from small arms fire while conducting combat operations. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

For more information on this soldier, contact the U.S. Army, Alaska, public affairs office at (907) 389-6666.

The man standing before that flag was too young to die.

This evening I had a visceral reaction while watching Law and Order. It was an episode where Jack McCoy was forced to deal with a snag in his case against a man responsible for killing a military supplier when a terrorism aspect comes into play. There’s footage of a convoy in Iraq getting blown up. As one man emerges from the wreckage, he’s captured and beheaded with a serrated blade. The video footage stops short of the beheading, of course.

But that image was too much for me.? One man kneeling in a desert, knowing that this moment was going to be his last, begging for his life.? I know this was fiction, but it’s happening over there, every day.

It’s hitting me more and more that these are real people over there, losing their lives in horrid situations. I had to change the channel when the footage was aired. And this was a fictional television show. This time, though, “Ripped from the headlines,” was too real.

The Associated Press is reporting 16,273 Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police died violent deaths in 2006, a figure larger than an independent Associated Press count for the year by more than 2,500.

The tabulation by the Iraqi ministries of Health, Defense and Interior, showed that 14,298 civilians, 1,348 police and 627 soldiers were killed in the violence that raged in the country last year.

The Associated Press accounting, gleaned from daily news reports from Baghdad, arrived at a total of 13,738 deaths. The United Nations has said as many as 100 Iraqis die violently each day, which translates into 36,500 deaths annually.

All of them real people. Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, was only one.

One more.