Martinsville considers 9/11 toll

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MARTINSVILLE - News of Bid Laden's death brings some relief and even hope to the families of soldiers who died fighting overseas. That's especially true in the community of Martinsville in Morgan County, which lost five men since 9/11.

Martinsville is a community that prides itself on its patriotism. A memorial erected to honor the fallen soldiers in every war also shows the names of five Martinsville residents lost in the war overseas: Major Stephen Long, PFC Stephen Paul Downing II, Warrant Officer Bill Loffer, Staff Sgt. William Ryan Fritsche and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Doyle.

For the families of these men, the news of Bin Laden's death brings back vivid memories of the sacrifices they made.

There are medals and mementos of his service, but for the father of Major Stephen Long, his son's memory is something he carries in his heart.

"I don't wear my feelings on my sleeves. But I do have my moments," said George Long.

One of those moments came late Sunday night when he got word that Osama Bin Laden was killed.

"I feel a lot of pride today. I do. I think everything this country's been through, maybe it's worth it to bring this guy to justice," said Long.

George Long paid the ultimate sacrifice for that justice. His 39-year-old son, an Army major, was at a meeting in the Pentagon when it came under attack on 9/11.

"I reflect on it quite a bit. And today, it brings it all back," said Long.

The news of the death of the nation's number one enemy comes quietly into the Martinsville home of Volitta Fritsche, and for the first time in a long time, she feels hope.

"I felt vindicated," she said.

Her son, Staff Sergeant Ryan Fritsche, died in Afghanistan shortly after he married and re-enlisted.

"I always felt like we were there to find bin Laden. I felt like that was what he went in the Army for," said Fritsche.

In a text, his widow Brandi writes "Osama bin Laden is dead. Ryan is heavy on my heart."

That sentiment is felt by a nation once again remembering loved ones lost in the nearly ten years since 9/11, and the military response that it triggered.

"I think we had gone through a time when we weren't remembering," said Eric Bowlen, Martinsville East Middle School principal.

For weeks, he's been working on a memorial to the five Martinsville soldiers who died since 9/11. He hopes Bin Laden's death will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices these soldiers made.

Their families, although relieved, believe the war is not won.

"I don't think it's going to fold up al-Qaida. Not going to fold up and go away," said Long.

"My son wasn't there for just one man. He was there for freedoms. He believed in America," said Fritsche.