Even the Army’s senior leaders aren’t free from danger in Iraq.

Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston, the top enlisted soldier in Iraq, rattles off the three times he was nearly killed like he’s describing trips to the grocery store.

“First time was AK-47,” said V Corps’ command sergeant major. “There were bullet holes in the side of my Humvee out there, in my door. Three- or four-round burst, hit near the door handle, broke the mirror.”

“Second time was a mortar, landed on the road in front of me; the third time was an [improvised explosive device]” which, he said, exploded off to the side of his Humvee.

But not everyone is as lucky as Preston.

“What you’ll find is when a soldier is killed, there’s a mourning period that soldiers go through, particularly the ones that are close to him,” said Preston.

“It’s important that a unit bring closure to it as quickly as possible and generally what will happen is they’ll do a ceremony, a memorial service.”

It’s important, said Preston, that troops don’t wallow in their grief.

Leaders should “get soldiers back to work as quickly as you can,” he said, “get them back into the mission, because otherwise you can grieve over things for a long time and it will just kind of eat away at you.”

Not a day goes by that Preston’s boss, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander of forces in Iraq, isn’t tracking the latest casualties.

The death of every one of his soldiers is “a really personal thing,” Sanchez told Stars and Stripes.

“You have to work through that. It’s a function of the profession. That’s what our profession is about,” said Sanchez. “We know that’s the business we’re in.”

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