Todd Pitman, correspondent for the AP, wrote an article that was syndicated on Yahoo News commenting on the impact of the long Afghan War on a new generation of troops.
- Lance Cpl. Jacob Adams was in 5th grade math class when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. His parents took him out of school early that day. Adams, 20, is now serving in a Marine battalion battling Taliban gunmen, many of whom were also just kids on Sept. 11, 2001. He’s part of a new generation of U.S. troops inheriting the wars spawned by the terror attacks. Many of the men and women who took part in the initial invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have since left the military and moved on with their lives. The changing of the guard is a graphic and personal reminder that the fighting has dragged on longer than anyone ever imagined. “It’s kind of weird having watched it all on the news those first days,” said Adams. “And then 10 years later, here I am, and here we are still fighting it.” Adams, from Jacksonville, Florida, said even though he was only 10 when the Twin Towers collapsed, he knew then that he wanted to join the military. But back then, “I didn’t think we’d still be at war,” he said.
- Fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Chatel, 20, from Holyoke, Massachusetts, also remembers being pulled out of school on 9/11. “The principal came on the intercom and called for a moment of silence,” said Chatel, whose tan-colored body armor alone probably weighs more than he did at the time. “I really didn’t know what was going on. When I went back home, I saw my grandmother looking at the news, crying.” Still, he didn’t really pay attention when news broke on Oct. 7, 2001 that the Afghan war had begun. “I didn’t really hear much about it,” Chatel said. “I don’t remember it.”
- Countless members of the Army, Navy and Marines who took part in the initial invasions of Afghanistan and two years later of Iraq have rejoined the civilian world and are now raising families. The turnover rate in the Marine Corps is higher than its sister branches, averaging about 70 percent every four years, said the 2/9’s operations officer, Maj. Dallas Shah. That means only about 30 percent of Marines stay on after their contract ends, he said.
- Shah said the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are producing new generations of military leaders. Many Marines will finish their tours having racked up significant combat experience. The two Marine battalions currently deployed to Marjah have lost 23 men in the last 3 1/2 months, according to a Facebook page that tracks casualties. “We’re releasing guys back into civilian life who’ve been through this crucible,” Shah said, “and it has the effect of making them one of two things: bitter or better.”
This month has been designated National Military Appreciation Month where our government will fill the public square with endearing platitudes and discourse on the sacrifices our overburdened military experiences everyday. Indeed, for our deployed troopers it will be hard to hear this message of appreciation through the din of political and economic news or the roar of an IED blast. But you can rest assured that if the message does get through, our frontline troops will remain humble to the task at hand and dedicated to the mission we’ve assigned them, and ultimately, that is what makes them even more amazing.