Courtesy of MCT
Imagine the entire Columbus metropolitan area ceasing to exist, nearly 2 million people gone. Then add another half million.
That’s the number of U.S. service members who have been killed or wounded since 1775. Nearly 40,000 are still declared as missing. I hate to use approximations, because no life lost, body wounded or service member missing in action should be discounted. But the numbers matter much less than the fact that they all have family members, too. And the 2.5 million quickly becomes multiplied as we look at those touched by the death and destruction of war.
As of Dec. 30, America has lost 6,337 service members from the combined wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In many cases, these men and women left behind supportive families: mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Many had not yet reached 30, and quite a few were parents. That last part gets me.
I read an article a few weeks ago in The Plain Dealer about a young boy whose Christmas wish was for his father to come home for the holidays. The parents and family of the boy were able to concoct a surprise, and it was heartening to know that the little boy got his wish. But it’s also sad to know that some children might have that same Christmas wish every year.
As the new year is upon us, I find it the proper time to reflect. I am not a fan of war. I find it deeply troubling and confusing. But above all else, I find it sad. The people that fight our country’s wars do so with what I believe are the best intentions. And while the U.S. is not perfect, it is a place where we can all be patriots and disagree sharply with each other or our government—and then do something about it.
That’s what we’re protecting. That’s what those 2.5 million people worked to protect. And I think that’s why millions of families continue to support their loved ones’ decisions to join the military. We can’t let those that came before us die in vain; we must ensure that our flag never touches the ground.
To the families of lost service members, I’d like to say thank you. As we enter a new year, I thank you for loving someone who loved their country enough to die for it. We seldom see such conviction. Your sacrifices as a family are not lost in the numbers.
Loss doesn’t always make us rational; it makes us emotional. And I’m overflowing with gratitude for what I’ve been given. Perhaps we can all take comfort in knowing that the pursuit of happiness is a road made possible and paved by our nation’s service members, their families, and the hope that we all might make a lasting impression along the way.