The Afghanistan War: "They Were Children When the War Began"

I periodically write about our heroes who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

I do so in part to remind myself -- once a young, gung-ho supporter of the Vietnam War -- that wars come at a price, a very heavy price.

Just this past Friday I quoted the latest AP statistics that told us that as of Thursday, August 26, at least 1,145 of our military had died in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion of that country in 2001 -- that is nine years ago.

In the list of casualties -- 16 of them -- there were two very young heroes, each age 19.

I also said, "As I have written before, the bullet, the rocket propelled grenade, the bomb, or the IED that kills our heroes does not differentiate whether our hero is -- as in this latest report -- 19 or 33."

Since that report, several more of our soldiers have been killed in that war. I don't know their ages, but I would not be surprised if at least a couple of them were 19, perhaps even 18.

Now, most of my readers know that I have always opposed the war in Iraq. I have written plenty of articles to make that opinion crystal clear.

It has been a different story with the Afghanistan war.

While I will not call a war "right," or a "good war" (sometimes war is the last, desperate resort), I have not opposed the Afghanistan war, nor criticized the reasons for starting that war, either during the Bush administration or now, under Obama.

However, a recent letter in the New York Times, a very short letter, hit me like a ton of bricks.

The letter:

To the Editor:

The saddest thing about reading the names of the American casualties in Afghanistan is to read their ages: 18, 19, 20, 21. They were children when the war began.

Mark Hopkins
Cleveland, Aug. 31, 2010

"They were children when the war began."

We know exactly how young these heroes were when the war began.

They were ages 9, 10, 11 and 12.

By God, they were only babies when the war began!

I have a grandson -- one of my dearest treasures on earth -- who just turned 11.

Had he been 11 when the Afghanistan war started, he would be 19 or 20 now. He could be in Afghanistan. He could be...

Just think, if the Afghanistan war continues for another two or three years, those parents who only nine years ago were waving goodbye to their children as they entered first grade may be waving goodbye to those very same children as they board that airplane that will take them to war.

It is strange how one little letter from a complete stranger can have such a big impact, can cause a person to re-examine so much, can make one begin to see things in such a different light.