Memorial Day: Don't Forget Afghanistan Veterans

Susan Stamper Brown resides in Alaska and writes about culture, politics and current events.

I had to shut down my computer the other day after reading about all the brave soldiers who've joined the ranks of the "forever young" in Afghanistan. It's been a long 15 years.

War is not for the fainthearted, or the impatient. I am guilty on both counts, but I am not alone in my feelings as I come to understand the cost of war extends far beyond America's diminishing treasure.

With scant media reports about the positive impacts of our presence in Afghanistan and a Commander-in-Chief who checked out before he took office, it's easy to mistake Afghanistan as a total loss. A cursory glance projects a dysfunctional nation infested with godless, faceless, soulless lunatics who will stop at nothing to "kill all infidels."

And it is also easy to politicize a war. Those who encouraged us to "cut and run" revealed their own cowardice and will forever bear the guilt associated with the loss of untold innocent lives. But those who invested their blood and treasure can glory in and take credit for the good. You gave Afghanis hope, before Democrats took it away.

As reported in The American Interest, "Obama's Failed Legacy in Afghanistan": "The Democratic Party solidly opposed the surge and supported the deadline. In September 2009, 62 percent of Democrats opposed Obama's impending surge decision, and 63 percent of Republicans supported it … The war in Afghanistan was never as politically unpopular as the war in Iraq … until the President started to telegraph his disbelief in the mission."

In February 2009, 70 percent believed Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban in the U.S. military withdrawal. The public was right, Democrats were wrong and Afghanis will pay the price.

Reuters reports that senior Red Cross official, Jean-Nicolas Marti, begs that the world not forget Afghanistan. "The international community must keep their attention on Afghanistan," said Marti, "it's far from being over. It's not time to switch off." He anticipates the already deteriorated security situation and violence will only get worse.

I had to search far and wide for good news regarding our military presence in Afghanistan, but here goes: Amnesty International reports that thanks to our military, females in Afghanistan are the benefactors of increased life expectancy, seats on the Afghan National Assembly and provincial councils and increased enrollment in all tiers of formal education, and equal rights are enshrined in the Afghan Constitution.

Our military should be proud their service also contributed to Afghan life expectancy, increasing from 44 years to 60 in ten years, and access to basic health care services went from 9 percent in 2001 to 60 percent. Not to forget that Afghanistan is now a democracy, though corrupt. And let's not forget that the beverage industry in Afghanistan is growing. PepsiCo opened its first plant there in 2014, creating hundreds of jobs.

Before we pulled out, the International Council on Security and Development did a survey finding that our military achievements were "unquestionable," with the majority believing that NATO and the Afghan government were "winning the war."

Enjoying a cold Pepsi in Kabul or a woman graduating from college cannot make up for the loss of a single soldier's life, but these events remind us that we were there to save a people from the grip of the savages who'd checked out of humanity a long time ago. And for that, the sacrifice is not in vain.

Getting lost in the fog of war has a tendency to overshadow its purpose, and sometimes we need to be reminded of the good. In his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, author J.R.R. Tolkien explained "why," when his character, Sam, encouraged his buddy Frodo to continue in the fight.

Tolkien wrote, "By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are ... it is only a passing thing, this shadow … a new day will come … there's some good in this world … and it's worth fighting for."

©2015 Susan Stamper Brown. Susan resides in Alaska and writes about culture, politics and current events. Her columns are syndicated by Contact her by Facebook or at

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