In August 2010, I devoted that issue of Reflections to the War in Afghanistan and how it affected Savannah, GA a historic city where I lived for 20 years. I would like to share some of those thoughts with you again.
We have a host of military bases in Savannah, with thousands of soldiers coming and going. War is not some far-off battlefield, but one that we feel every day. Many a tree has a bright yellow ribbon. The shops offer a military discount. When we dine out, we buy meals for our men and women in service. It’s our way of saying “thank you.”
Our airport is unique when it comes to the military and their families. We permit the families to go to the departure gate to say goodbye and to welcome their soldiers home.
Recently I was waiting for my flight when the incoming plane arrived with a number of troops returning from Afghanistan. It was a very emotional moment.
The wives and children were waiting, holding balloons and signs. One little three-year-old had a “Welcome Home Daddy” sign that was bigger than she was.
The plane pulled up to the gate. Everyone came alive in anticipation of seeing their loved ones. The door opened and the returning servicemen and women were greeted with applause. Their eyes searched for their families. A squeal of delight rang out from the wives and children when daddy stepped through the gate. Balloons dropped to the floor, followed by long hugs and tears.
Everyone was moved by the emotion. The applause continued until the last service person had left the plane. Then there was silence. We all wiped the tears from our eyes. I, for one, was emotionally drained.
On Memorial Day weekend (2010), it was announced that over 1,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. I thought of that number during this moment at the airport. Many were from the Savannah area. They plant a tree at Ft. Stewart for each fallen service man and woman. We have too many trees!!
We are now seven years removed from that day at the Savannah airport and the war in Afghanistan continues. Politicians promise to end it, and yet more young men and women have died or been wounded and billions more dollars have been spent.
The statistics today are sobering, if not infuriating.
- 2,350 U.S. troops dead (more than double the number in 2010)
- 20,092 U.S. troops injured
- Thousands more civilian contractors, allied troops and local civilians have been killed or wounded.
- Over $1 trillion spent so far.
- Another $1 trillion will be spent treating the wounded and disabled over the next 40 years.
(Sources: U.S. Department of Defense, Brown University research study.)
For 17 years we have been mired in this conflict. How much longer? To what end?
Certainly, we must fight terrorism and keep our country safe, but we need to define a path to cease combat operations in Afghanistan in a reasonable timeframe.
Our best young men and women have given all that they can give. We salute them. But, we must demand better from our politicians, policy makers and the Pentagon.
I pray that I won’t be writing a Reflections piece about Afghanistan in another seven years.