MySpace as a war memorial

Pfc. Anthony J. Sausto liked listening to the band Green Day and watching movies starring Adam Sandler.

The Fort Lewis soldier wanted to have children someday.

Sausto was killed May 10 by small-arms fire in Baghdad, but many personal details and his photograph live on at his MySpace.com profile.

"Anything you want to know all you have to do is ask," the 22-year-old New Jersey native wrote. "I'm a pretty open person."

In earlier wars, families had only the letters that soldiers sent home; often, bits and pieces were removed by cautious censors. Iraq is the first U.S. war in the Internet age, and many fallen soldiers from South Sound and nationwide have left ghosts of themselves online - unsentimental self-memorials, frozen and uncensored snapshots of the person each wanted to show to the world.

"War as we know it and as we're taught through schools, in most cases it's through the filter ... of a historian," said Bob Patrick, an Army veteran who runs the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.

MySpace pages, he added, "are grassroots stories on the foxhole level, or the cockpit level."

Pfc. Michael Pursel, 19, formerly of Lacey and more recently of Hooper, Utah, devoted part of his MySpace page to reflecting on his military service. He was one of six Fort Lewis soldiers who died May 6 in Baqouba, Iraq, when a massive roadside bomb detonated beneath their Stryker armored vehicle.

"I'm currently in Iraq living the dream even though I'm at war I'm still having the time of my life over here," he wrote. "I chose to come here, and I wasn't made to come. This is something I've always wanted to do."

Sgt. Mickel D. Garrigus, 24, of Elma had a countdown posted on his MySpace profile, ticking off the days until he'd be out of the Army, although he also wrote about his pride in his military service. He was assigned to a military police unit based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

"I'm going to Iraq for the second time at the end of the year, and I can't wait to go," wrote Garrigus, who died Jan. 27 in Taji, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat patrol.

His profile contains many writings about how much his wife and son meant to him; he called them both his heroes.

"It takes a big heart to love someone like me," Garrigus wrote in a tribute to his wife.

And to the question "who I'd like to meet," he responded this way: "There really is no one else, I have met my wife and the Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasslebeck. I think my life is complete."

The Internet phenomenon is growing because the war dead are young - as of March 24, more than three-fourths of those killed in Iraq were 30 or younger - and comfortable putting personal information online.

The result has been pictures of war that are "much more personal and much more public," Patrick said. "That's a function of technology."

However, the number of soldiers who leave behind online profiles could drop after the Pentagon's recent announcement that service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan won't be able to access MySpace and other social Web sites from Defense Department computers. But the new rules don't affect commercial or private computers, so soldiers still will be able to create profiles from their homes in the U.S. before they leave. They also can use Internet cafes or commercial connections to maintain their profiles from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the profiles also have become spaces for online tributes, where friends and relatives can post messages or personal memories after a soldier passes away.

"You are the greatest brother anyone could ask for," reads one posting on Cpl. Wade J. Oglesby's MySpace page.

Oglesby was one of two Fort Lewis Stryker brigade soldiers killed in April in Taji when a bomb detonated near their vehicle.

"Now I'm gonna miss ya more than ever while you're in Heaven," the posting continues. "Rest In Peace Bro 4-Ever."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Heather Woodward writes for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-4225 or hwoodward@theolympian.com.


To view some MySpace profiles of fallen soldiers with ties to South Sound, click on the links with this story at www.theolympian.com. Links

To view some MySpace profiles of fallen soldiers with ties to South Sound, click the following links.

Pfc. Anthony J. Sausto: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=108844685

Spc. Anthony Bradshaw: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=73794998

Pfc. Michael Pursel: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=54434890

Sgt. Mickel D. Garrigus: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=15446423

Spc. Anthony A. Kaiser: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=67357566

Cpl. Wade J. Oglesby: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=17441864