With so much else going on in the news -- a horrific mass shooting in Colorado, a huge election year and, of course, the economy -- it is far too easy for the average American to forget that we are a nation at war. What little public debate there is about the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan is incredibly muted and our people appear to largely believe we are winding down in that conflict. So we have a recipe for ignorance in which the majority of Americans have no clue about how many of our men and women are dying there every day.
The numbers of our war dead in Afghanistan just since May 1 are both sad and astounding: over 100 troops have died in less than three months, with 39 killed in May, 29 in June and 35 so far in July.
To give you an idea of how we are most assuredly not "winding down," there have been 2,063 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in the 10 years and nine months since our war there began -- or an average of 16 deaths a month for almost 11 years.
We have lost 100 of our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, spouses and parents in just the last three months -- does this sound like we're winding down to you?
The one thing I always believed as I watched young people stand mostly silent during the Iraq War -- their version of Vietnam -- and now have nothing collectively to say about the losses we continue to sustain with no clear mission in Afghanistan, is that the absence of a military draft is largely the reason for this indifference.
If our twenty-somethings and teens were being pulled off college campuses or drafted right out of high school to attain a murky objective in a brutal and distant land, there would be protests going on from the University of Maine to San Diego State. But the vast majority of the burden for our most recent wars has always been shouldered by our military people and their immediate and extended families -- and that's about it.
There's been no shared sacrifice and, as we lose a person a day in Afghanistan, our population floats merrily along waiting for the next hyped-up domestic news story or for the latest episode of The Kardashians.
And who have we lost since May while we are so preoccupied with anything but that?
Marine Lance Cpl. Eugene C. Mills III, of Laurel, MD, was only 21 years old when he died June 22 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. According to his father, Mills decided to join the military while still a boy, after watching the September 11 attacks on television.
"When my son was 11 years old, he saw the towers fall and said he wanted to serve his country," said his father.
Army Pfc. Cody O. Moosman, was only 24 when he died on July 3, in Gayan Alwara Mandi, Afghanistan. He had been an Eagle Scout and looked forward to returning home to Preston, Idaho, where his passion was hunting and fishing.
One of the most recently killed, Army Pfc. Adam C. Ross, 19, of Lyman, S.C., died this week in an ambush while on foot patrol in Afghanistan after only being in the country for three weeks. He was just 19 years old.
Those are just some of the names and stories behind these numbers that should get more attention, but receive next to none.
And for what, at this point, have we lost these young people?
The original mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and defeat al-Qaeda has been accomplished. The Taliban is in tatters and capable only of setting IEDs or taking pot-shots at our troops, who are now operating primarily as targets in a country destined for perpetual holy war.
And most experts agree that while there will continue to be anti-terrorism battles to fight, they are best pursued as targeted efforts that don't necessarily conform to one country's boundaries. Which all leads to an obvious, inescapable conclusion -- it's time to get the hell out of Afghanistan.
If 100 of our people dead in less than three months doesn't tell us that, I don't know what will.