Among the service members who have died since the conflict began in March 2003, the stories of several have lingered in the minds of Times reporters and photographers, even if they weren't necessarily close to them.
Marine Maj. Ray J. Mendoza was a natural leader -- imposing, muscled and confident, yet humble.
He also knew the essence of leadership: that rank is only the beginning. He came to the Marine Corps from Ohio State, where he had been a champion wrestler. Opponents say he never backed down, that he was aggressive from start to finish.
As head of an infantry company, Mendoza believed in leading from the front, sharing the risks with his young grunts. In the end, it was that trait that led to his death.
He was scouting an attack position near Iraq's border with Syria on Nov. 14, 2005, when he stepped on a land mine.
He was 37 and left a widow and two children. In his last phone call to his wife, he asked her about injured Marines from his company who'd been sent back to Camp Pendleton for treatment. He made no mention of the dangerous mission he and his company had been given.
I met Mendoza during the battle in Fallouja in early 2004. I attended his funeral less than two years later in Oceanside. At the church, each of us was handed a picture of him.
I keep that picture on the front of my computer. I can't forget Ray, his bravery and the sacrifice that he and the others have made for our country -- not while that picture stares at me. That's the idea.