A grim milestone, a death of a father and a call for more attention

After death of Sgt. Michael Ristau in Afghanistan, Battle Company Project focuses attention on troops as war's death toll reaches 2,000

August 22, 2012

Quinn Ford

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(Battle Company Project)
Sgt. Michael Ristau on duty.
(Battle Company Project)
Sgt. Michael Ristau with his wife and son.

Sgt. Michael Ristau was a 25 year-old who grew up in Rockford, Illinois and joined the army in 2004. He is one of more than 2,000 Americans who have died as a result of the War in Afghanistan.

The husband and father of two died in the Zabul province of Afghanistan last month after his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

His mother, Suzanne Ristau of Cascade, Iowa, remembers her son as a family man who loved bull-riding and being a soldier.

“He’s our hero and he died doing something that he truly loved,” she said.

“I was amazed that there were very few expressions of fear that they might get killed during the course of their deployment, these soldiers, but almost all of them were really concerned that they would be forgotten by the American people.”
- Dr. Jerry Montgomery

The war, now in it's 11th year, has officially claimed more than 2,000 American lives, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

But some soldiers in Ristau’s unit say even that grim milestone isn’t enough to place them in the forefront of most Americans’ minds.

It's because of that Dr. Jerry Montgomery and his wife, Ruth, started the “Battle Company Project.” Jerry Montgomery said the project offers support in the form of care packages and letters to Ristau’s unit.

Montgomery said he spoke with some of the 167 soldiers in Ristau’s battle company before their deployment in December 2011. According to Montgomery, those soldiers weren't phased by the idea of dying – but instead by the idea of being ignored by the American public.

“I was amazed that there were very few expressions of fear that they might get killed during the course of their deployment, these soldiers, but almost all of them were really concerned that they would be forgotten by the American people,” Montgomery said.

Michael Ristau will not be forgotten by his wife, Elizabeth, or his two children, Bradley and Hyle Lee Ristau. Ristau's mother, Suzanne, says her son's sacrifice was not made in vain.

“It’s sad that we have to lose so many, but if it wasn’t for our soldiers, we wouldn’t have what we have today,” she said.