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Originally published March 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 18, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Jared Santos: "I remember when his body came to town"

For most Americans, the fighting in Iraq unfolds from afar. But for others, including these six Puget Sound-area residents, the war is close to home.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Jared Santos, 17, Bellingham, Sehome High School student, who stands with his brother Justin, 15, right, at the cemetery where their brother, who was killed in Iraq, is buried.

Brothers Jared and Justin Santos woke up to their mother's screams.

"I thought she fell down the stairs," Jared recalled. Even after seeing the two somber soldiers in the living room, "I was thinking he might be missing. I didn't think he might be killed."

But their older brother, Cpl. Jonathan Santos, 22 and in Iraq for just five weeks, had been killed by a suicide bomber Oct. 15, 2004.

Extended family from California and Guam converged on their home to pray the rosary and sing "Ave Maria" and "Amazing Grace." People from all over Bellingham turned out to pay respects — "I didn't know that many people cared that much," Justin said.

Close friends at school stayed near. "I teared up really bad," Jared said. "A lot of the guys walked over and patted me on the shoulder."

For a long time, Jared couldn't talk about his feelings, and Justin was sad, angry and depressed. Their mother always has opposed the war; now both boys understand why and share her feelings.

Now their father — a career military man and divorced from their mother — also has been sent to Iraq. He's supposedly out of harm's way, but the brothers worry and e-mail him every day. They cope by supporting their mom, staying busy and playing sports.

Their deceased brother's memorabilia decorates their rooms; Jared wears the clothes Jonathan left behind and sleeps under his comforter. Since the death, Jared is working harder and has grown less shy. He's participating in a film project about his brother and wants "to name my first boy Jonathan."

Justin is getting straight A's and attends war protests with his mother. He envisions a job in politics — "helping save the lives of soldiers."

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