BROOK PARK, Ohio – Their deaths shook a nation that had grown used to the slowly mounting U.S. military casualties in Iraq.
A year ago this week, 14 members of the suburban-Cleveland based 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines died in attacks a day apart. The blue-collar suburb's loss drew worldwide mourning. Some say it was a pivotal moment that changed public opinion of the war; others say it strengthened the resolve of military families.
"What we saw a year ago were people opposed to the war but afraid to do so publicly. People would whisper to us, 'I'm opposed to this war, too,'" said Paul Schroeder of Cleveland, whose son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was killed Aug. 3, 2005, in a roadside bombing. "That fear of speaking out faded."
Flags flapped in the humid breeze Tuesday at a memorial built outside the battalion headquarters. Bricks bear the names of each of the 48 members killed in Iraq before the unit returned to the United States in September.
The scene stood in stark contrast to a year ago, when reporters and cameras filled the parking lot outside the headquarters as friends, family and complete strangers sobbed before a makeshift memorial of flowers, teddy bears and handwritten notes attached to a chain-link fence.
The one-year anniversary will pass in Brook Park with no public remembrance. The city chose to pay tribute to all the Ohio military members killed in the war in early July. Many family members planted flags in memory of loved ones.
Paul Montgomery of Willoughby doesn't believe the death of his son, Lance Cpl. Brian Montgomery, one of several snipers who were killed Aug. 1, 2005, and his fellow Marines turned people against the war. But he knows it had an impact.
"Based on cards and phone calls I've gotten, people still remember," said Montgomery, whose other son, Eric, is attending the U.S. Naval Academy to become a Marine officer.
He hopes the media coverage of the Brook Park Marines made people aware of what they represent: "This should be a wake up call that we need to continue on," he said.
Experts differ on the effect of the deaths on public opinion. There haven't been protests similar to those of the anti-war movement in the 1960s, but Pete Moore, assistant professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, believes the deaths of the Brook Park Marines affected public sentiment.
"There has been a reaction," Moore said.
However, John Mueller, professor of political science at Ohio State, doesn't see any correlation between the Brook Park Marines and public opinion. Mueller, whose research includes public opinion of war, points out that support for the war has gradually declined in the same way it did for the Korean War and Vietnam War.
"It's erosion as casualties go up and people who had been supporting the war say, 'That's too rich for my blood,'" he said.
Since the deaths, Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer became activists, calling on President Bush to send more reinforcements to Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether. But on the anniversary, they will quietly remember their son by cleaning his gravestone at Lutheran Cemetery in Brooklyn.
They believe the deaths made a difference.
"The public grief of many families can't help but have an impact," Palmer said.