By the end of this year, well in advance of Memorial Day 2015, the war in Afghanistan is very likely to be, technically, concluded. Troops remaining there could be about 10,000, all in no more than advisory and training roles. Afghanistan has been America’s longest war, initiated in November 2001 in an attempt to destroy terrorist leaders and their training camps that had triggered the Sept. 11 attacks on this country.
About 2,200 Americans have died in Afghanistan as of mid-May, and there easily can be more even in training positions.
Knowing how a war will end before a country commits its men and women is an impossible luxury. There is no better example than Iraq, where a fast conventional sweep into Baghdad in March 2003 belied a war that would continue for nine years. So, too, Afghanistan, where while supporting local fighters, there were early victories. But, when attention turned to Iraq, the Afghanistan opposition rebuilt and eventually resurfaced.
Most of the men and women who lost their lives in America’s wars played no role in determining strategies. They were volunteers, professionals making a career of the military, or draftees; they were not the decision makers. Most went willingly, even at times eagerly, to fight for their country either when it was attacked or when its interests were believed to be threatened across the oceans. At times, it was to reduce or to end the suffering of others. These men and women left family, friends and community to train to the best of their abilities and then to ship overseas. They followed orders.
And then, because of any one of the multitude of tragic events that are a part of war zones, they did not come home.
Today, we remember those who gave their lives, and offer thoughts and condolences to their loved ones who never were able to – and never can – fill the gap that their absence has created.
In Durango today, remembrances for those who died in Vietnam will take place at 10 a.m. in Iris Park along the Animas River at 12th Street.
At 11 a.m. at the entrance to Greenmount Cemetery will be a service for those who lost their life in World War II and in the Korean Conflict.
And at 11:45, a wreath recognizing those who lost their life at sea will be put into the Animas River from the Ninth Street Bridge.
Everyone is welcome at all three events. No personal ties are required, just the recognition that on one day a year, for a couple of hours at most, we should make an effort to remember those who gave their life for this country.
On Memorial Day a year from now, we can hope that Americans are not involved in a war.