Cost of the War in Iraq
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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy, On The Death Of Marla Ruzicka

Thinking, perhaps a bit naively, that they might talk about the problem of civilian casualties, she decided to go. After the hearing was over and disappointed that the issue she cared so deeply about had not been mentioned, Marla walked straight up to Secretary Rumsfeld, and from the witness table, down the hallway and outside to his car, she did not stop talking to him about the families of civilians she had met who had been killed or injured and the need to do something to help them.

As anyone who knew Marla discovered, she was not someone who it was easy to say no to. In fact it was almost impossible, and that was not simply because she was insistent. It was because she had been there, she knew what war was about, she had seen the tragic results, and she was not about blaming anyone. She was about helping, in whatever ways she could.

Marla saw her work as part of the best of what this country is about. It was the face of a compassionate America that she believed in, and that she wanted the people of Afghanistan and Iraq to see.

It took time to realize that Marla wasn’t just a blond, bundle of energy and charisma – she was in fact a person of great intellect and courage who realized that if she wanted to help war victims it wasn’t enough to protest. She needed to work with people who could help her do it.

And that meant the Congress, the U.S. military, the U.S. Embassy, and the press. She quickly understood that, and she made the choice to put politics aside and focus on the victims.

It did not take long before the U.S. military saw the importance of what she was doing, and started to help her. There were several Civil Affairs officers with whom Marla worked like a team, she finding the cases, and they arranging for the plane to airlift a wounded child to a hospital, or some other type of assistance.

Marla became one of our most beloved Ambassadors.

I think one of the reasons so many people around the world feel Marla's loss so deeply is because we saw how important her work was and that it meant taking risks that the rest of us are unwilling to take. In a way she was not only helping the families of Iraqi war victims, she was also helping us.

Until she finally became an innocent victim of war herself.

Marla has been called many things. An angel of mercy. A ray of sunshine in an often dangerous and dark world. One person who knew her well described Marla as being as close to a living saint as they come, and I suspect that’s how many of us feel.

Speaking for myself, I have never met, nor do I ever expect to meet again, someone so young who gave so much of herself to so many people, and who made such a difference doing it.

Our hearts go out to her parents, Cliff and Nancy Ruzicka, who had the courage to let Marla be the person she wanted to be. Not that there would have been any stopping her.

Our job now is to carry on the work that Marla started, because it is so important. That is what I am committed to, and I look forward to working with my friend from California to honor Marla in that way.

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Page Last modified:  Friday, 03. August 2007 07:42 PM -0400