Today, battles with insurgents in the Middle East or Asia bring fear and concern back home.
Families here worry about loved ones over there.
Casualties incurred on far-away soil become life-changing events for communities at home. Northeast Alabama, which buried a soldier this week in an overwhelming show of support for the military and the bereaved family, is the perfect example.
Capt. Kyle Comfort wasn’t known by everyone in Calhoun County. But his funeral Monday caused U.S. flags to wave and tears to flow by a great many county residents who had never met the soldier who died from wounds suffered from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
The story of Comfort and those Calhoun Countians who mourned his death is no American oddity. It’s a recurring theme. Across this nation, families with loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq are concerned for the realities of war that, in the case of Comfort, can bring the battles of Helmand Province back to northeast Alabama.
In the most basic sense, it is the same emotions that American military families felt when their sons and fathers fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, Korea during the 1950s and Vietnam during the ’60s and ’70s.
A war’s effects are felt by all.
On the same week that Comfort was laid to rest, the U.S. military announced a dismal milestone: The United States has surpassed 1,000 war deaths in Afghanistan since American troops first went into that nation in 2001. That number still pales to the U.S. military death toll in Iraq, 4,397, a war that’s two years younger.
Nevertheless, that four-figure total says a great deal about the increasing severity of the war and the intensifying fears American military families have about their loved ones stationed in the rugged Afghan mountains and valleys.
As The New York Times explained earlier this week, the ramped-up violence of the last two years has transformed our thinking about that war. While the Iraq war was a grisly killing field for U.S. troops during much of this decade, it took seven years for the American death toll in Afghanistan to reach 500.
Five hundred more U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2008.
Regardless of one’s position on the war, it’s impossible not to feel a profound sadness for the families who’ve buried loved ones because of this conflict, and Iraq, as well.
Soldiers and their families pay a tremendous price for their patriotism. Honoring them as this county did so well Monday, and later in the week when a National Guard unit returned to Jacksonville, is the right thing to do.
It will be a momentous day when American towns can rest assured knowing that fewer of their uniformed sons and daughters are in harm’s way.