SEATTLE -- Lee Dickison remembers one of the last times she spoke with her son, Chris, on a happy day nine years ago, while he was on leave from fighting in Iraq with the U.S. Army.
"He just wished me a happy birthday and told me he was having the time of his life,” she smiled.
Spc. Chris Dickison returned to Iraq and died a few weeks later on July 5, 2005.
"And I just said, 'No, no. It can't be,’” Lee remembered. “He was my baby.”
Violence in Iraq claimed Chris’ life in a roadside bomb. Nearly a decade later, and more than 4,000 US troops killed, that violence is peaking as Chris’ mother watches in horror.
"All by themselves undid nine years of what my son worked for,” she cried.
Chris was a sharp-shooter, but his heart was always with the children of Iraq, many of whom are now left no choice but to flee as their country marches toward civil war.
"He always talked about the kids, the kids, the kids. So, he's not only our hero, he's their hero too,” Lee said.
Lee talks a lot about heroes today. Her older son served as a U.S. Marine in the first Gulf War, and Chris' best friend also fought beside him in Iraq.
Years later, he felt so guilty about Chris' death, he took his own life.
"They all are heroes. They did their best," Lee said.
That won’t change, Lee says, no matter what happens in the war-torn region.
"We did everything we could over there. We did a great job. We lost so many lives,” Lee said. "They all come back with a big H for hero."