we’re still at war

It’s common knowledge that liberals hate America, right? We don’t support the troops, and the only reason we’re not burning the flag right this very minute is because we’re too busy queuing up in disorderly socialist lines for the privilege of spitting on wounded veterans.

At least that’s the litany we hear every fifteen minutes from conservative Republican outlets like FOX News. But thankfully, there exists a courageous news venue that unflaggingly keeps the troops in mind, that regularly reminds us that there are still men and women in uniform serving in a combat zone.

Spc. Andrew Harvey, a 1st Infantry Soldier, patrols along steep cliffs of the Korengal Valley's surrounding mountains during Operation Viper Shake, Afghanistan, April 21, 2009. Photo courtesy army.mil.

Spc. Andrew Harvey, a 1st Infantry Soldier, patrols along steep cliffs of the Korengal Valley’s surrounding mountains during Operation Viper Shake, Afghanistan, April 21, 2009. Photo courtesy army.mil.

Is it FOX News? No, it’s not. Is it the New York Times? Sadly, no. Maybe it’s TIME magazine? Nope.

It’s Mother Jones. That’s right, Mother Jones — the notoriously left-wing muckraking magazine. Since June of 2009, MoJo has been publishing We’re Still at War: Photo of the Day. It’s not published every single day, but several times a week they print a photograph of U.S. military forces either in a combat zone or training for deployment to a combat zone. It’s a small thing, but it serves as a constant reminder.

The sad thing is that the American public actually needs reminding.

COMBAT OUTPOST MIZAN, Afghanistan—US Army 1st Lt. Troy Peterson, right, platoon commander for 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, assists his radio operator, US Army Pfc. Justin Cobbs, across a ravine during a dismounted patrol near Combat Outpost Mizan, Mizan District, Zabul Province, on Aug. 16, 2010. Photo via the US Army by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon.

COMBAT OUTPOST MIZAN, Afghanistan—US Army 1st Lt. Troy Peterson, right, platoon commander for 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, assists his radio operator, US Army Pfc. Justin Cobbs, across a ravine during a dismounted patrol near Combat Outpost Mizan, Mizan District, Zabul Province, on Aug. 16, 2010. Photo via the US Army by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon.

It’s become shockingly easy to forget that we’re still at war. While we’re immersed in our daily lives–buying groceries, watching Downton Abbey, making fun of Justin Bieber–men and women are still fighting and killing and dying in Afghanistan. It’s easy to forget because most folks don’t have any meaningful connection to the war or the people fighting it.

There are about a million and a half active duty personnel serving in the U.S. military–the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. That sounds like a lot of people to have in military harness, but it’s less than half of one percent of our population. Of that million and a half troops, around 70,000 are currently serving in Afghanistan. That’s still a lot of people, but the odds are you don’t know any of them.

There’s never been a point in U.S. history in which the American public has been so separate from its military. There’s a fairly good chance you (whoever you are) have a family member who served in the military at some point in the past–probably World War II, maybe Korea, maybe Vietnam. But the odds of you knowing somebody currently on active duty are pretty slim. The odds of you knowing somebody who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq are even more slim. The odds of you knowing somebody who is currently stationed in Afghanistan are remote.

The sun sets behind U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jamie R. Johnson, a platoon sergeant from Bayonet Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, in Afghanistan's Kunar Province March 17. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell, 210th MPAD

The sun sets behind U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jamie R. Johnson, a platoon sergeant from Bayonet Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province March 17. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell, 210th MPAD

Last year 301 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan. In 2011, 412 troops were killed there, and 496 were killed the year before that. That’s averaging more than one death a day for the last three years.

Unless one of those dead troops was a member of your family, it’s easy to ignore them. Their deaths were almost certainly not reported on the national news. They might have been given a solemn moment in the local news. But let’s face it–they were strangers. They are as distant from us as the murder of a drug dealer in Newark or the accidental shooting of a 13 year old girl in Ovid Township, Michigan. They are, in a very real and very sad way, nobody at all.

Spc. Jon Saladin, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, walks past an Afghan graveyard during a US–Afghan patrol on April 30, 2012, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. Saladin serves with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. US Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

Spc. Jon Saladin, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, walks past an Afghan graveyard during a US–Afghan patrol on April 30, 2012, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. Saladin serves with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. US Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

Except these nobodies volunteered to put on a uniform and take risks in the service of their country. Well, our country. It’s our country too, right? We pay taxes after all (though let’s be honest, we try to pay as little as we can). But the troops sometimes have to pay in a more fundamental way.

So they deserve our support and our attention. They deserve more than we give them. Much more. Mother Jones publishes a photo of the troops a few times a week–it’s not much. It’s not much at all. But MoJo’s We’re Still at War: Photo of the Day is more attention than most news organizations give to the troops. And Mother Jones gives them a name.

Lance Cpl. Cassidy Zacharyasz provides overwatch for International Security Assistance Forces as they conduct a district transition assessment visit with Nawa District officials at the Nawa District Government Headquarters, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. John R. Rohrer

Lance Cpl. Cassidy Zacharyasz provides overwatch for International Security Assistance Forces as they conduct a district transition assessment visit with Nawa District officials at the Nawa District Government Headquarters, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. John R. Rohrer

Thanks to Mother Jones we know this:

In April of 2009, Spc. Andrew Harvey served in the Korengal Valley.
In August of 2010, 1st Lt. Troy Peterson and Pfc. Justin Cobbs served in Zabul Province.
In March of 2011, Sgt. 1st Class Jamie R. Johnson served in Kunar Province.
In April of 2012, Spc. Jon Saladin served in Ghazni province.
And just a few weeks ago Lance Cpl. Cassidy Zacharyasz was on duty in Helman Province.

These are real people. They have real families. They’re making real sacrifices. And we need to remember that, like it or not, we’re still at war.

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2 thoughts on “we’re still at war

  1. Well written. My dad, a WWII vet, has always complained that the American people don’t have to suffer when we are at war anymore, other than the families directly at risk. After I read this: http://www.amazon.com/Drift-Unmooring-American-Military-ebook/dp/B005BUG6T8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1361727044&sr=8-2&keywords=maddow I think that it is on purpose. As long as there is no big connection it makes it easier to go to war, I think it was brought on by the unrest caused by the Viet Nam war. They don’t want to go there again.

    Like

  2. Pingback: nobody pays much attention | gregfallis.com

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