Reno Gazette Journal September 5, 2021 https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/09/02/god-bless-our-armed-forces-sam-kumar/5703103001/
August 31 marks the first day in nearly two decades when there is no American military presence in Afghanistan. Since combat operations started in 2001, nearly 2500 American military personnel have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The most recent attack on August 26 claimed 13 more, making it the deadliest since 2011.
Armed forces around the world are trained to neutralize the enemy, protect the nation, and win. While the US Armed forces are better than any other in history in taking down enemy targets, only the United States military has the compassion to save lives. There is no greater testament to this fact than the countless images we all witnessed of Afghan mothers handing over their children to the US Armed Forces. This is who we are as a country, and our armed forces reflect those values. The thirteen fallen soldiers from August 26, 2021, and the many more from the previous two decades, died trying to save Afghans. In her heartbreaking final Instagram post titled “Kabul, Afghanistan: I love my job”, 23-year old Nicole Gee, the fallen hero from our neighboring Roseville, CA is seen cradling an Afghan child. Nicole is a Marine, but unlike the thugs we just allowed to take back Afghanistan, her happiness comes not from taking down enemy targets, which I have no doubt she is exceptionally good at, but from saving the Afghan people and their children. Nicole truly exemplifies the spirit of compassionate and caring American, and her parents should be proud. As Nicole’s friend Mallory Harrison wrote in her moving tribute, Nicole’s car is still parked in the parking lot at her base, Camp Lejeune, NC. You should read Mallory’s Facebook post. If Mallory’s tribute to Nicole doesn’t break your heart, you don’t have one.
Nicole’s story is just one of thirteen in just this one attack. It his hard to fathom what these military families go through. Your loved one enlists, and the family is overjoyed they will be serving this great country. Then they are deployed. They are away from the family for long periods of time. How many videos have we seen where a father returns home to a child who can barely recognize him? There is the inevitable stress on the spouse as (s)he has to take care of all family needs while their other half is serving the country. Then the unimaginable: an attack like the one in Kabul. You know your loved one is there. You know the base has been hit. You know there are casualties. You don’t know if your loved one is one of those casualties. Every door knock is a cardiac event. Every vehicle entering the street could be bad news. The sacrifices those in the Armed Forces and their families make in service of this country is immeasurable and we all owe them a debt that will never be paid.
One final point: Thirteen of our very best were killed in the suicide attack at the Kabul airport, eleven of which came from the Marines. There is no better way to conclude this column than by quoting from the United States Marine hymn: “….If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines”. Those in Heaven should be honored to know that these thirteen of our nation’s heroes will be the most recent ones guarding their streets for a long time to come. May God bless the families of the thirteen heroes and their broader family, the United States Armed Forces.