U.S. troops in Afghanistan made a difference
It was 20 years ago Saturday, on Sept. 11, 2001, that the world woke up to the horrifying images of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the heart of New York City’s financial center being rammed by two commercial jetliners “piloted” by Muslim fanatics.
That incident signaled the beginning of the end of what had been dubbed “The End Of History” by historian/author Francis Fukuyama in light of the implosion of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the 50-year Cold War between the Free World and communism.
The exuberant worldwide celebration of the birth of the 21st century at midnight Dec. 31, 1999, was a signal that mankind had finally acceded to be ruled by liberal democratic institutions. We were all globalists now.
Then the planes hit the buildings and shattered that proposal along with the prospects of a century of peace. Turns out, most of those Muslim fanatics were trained, supplied and supported by a small group of jihadis who’d made a home in Afghanistan.
As of this writing, the official U.S. Department of Defense Casualty Status of its Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom counts a total of 2,218 deaths of military personnel. Of those, 1,833 are listed as killed in action, along with 385 non-hostile deaths and 1 pending. In addition, another 20,093 men and women are listed as wounded in action.
These men and women in the U.S. military are all volunteers. They answered the call of their nation in its time of peril and put their very lives on the line.
Along with their lives, servicemen and women have lost toes, feet, legs, arms, ears, noses, entire faces and other body parts and functions, many of which are so severe that those injuries amount to extended death sentences.
No one can blame those who have survived but who suffer lifelong debilitation, or parents, spouses, lovers, children, and friends of the dead and wounded, to wonder whether it was all worth it. Or worse, wonder what it is they are “defending” or fighting for.
The ignominious retreat from Afghanistan, with the U.S. leaving behind an arsenal of weapons sure to be used against our current and future military members, surely gives those soldiers pause. Volunteers who’d given so much for what now seems so little as Afghanistan reverts to the very same dysfunctional leadership in charge when the U.S. first went in there 20 years ago need both comfort and reassurance, if not from the political class, at least from a grateful public.
They need to know that their sacrifices mean something, that they’ve done some good.
And, despite all that’s occurred, it has been worth it.
They have indeed done some good.
They’ve devoted themselves to a noble cause: a perpetuation of the freedom and self-government won by the struggles and deprivations of generations past. From the first casualties at Lexington and Concord, whereupon some 77 New Englanders with primitive muskets calling themselves Minutemen — volunteers all — stood their ground as 700 trained and disciplined British troops – in search of rebellious colonists John Hancock and Samuel Adams – fired upon the farmers-turned-militiamen who stood in front of them at the commons.
The American idea — the most noble and successful ideological movement perhaps that has ever occurred in the history of man —began with the shedding of blood in Lexington and Concord and continued through to the defeat of the British in the ensuing nearly 10-year long Revolutionary War.
Afghanistan is where the men who brought down those buildings in the heart of New York City were allowed the freedom to train, by the Taliban. So Afghanistan really did matter, and our military fought gallantly and successfully.
It has been the ferocious mindset of the American fighting men (joined now by women in combat) who’ve prevailed in Afghanistan, where they kept the peace for the past 20 years and denied the enemy a sanctuary. They kept the homeland safe.
That a feckless President Biden and his administration, an incompetent military command structure, and a bevy of nearly useless intelligence agencies let our soldiers — and our country — down does not negate those efforts.
Our soldiers performed magnificently and we owe those men and women in uniform much.
Here’s what we — and I, and you — can do.
Firstly, whenever you see someone in uniform, thank them. Maybe even pick up a tab for coffee or lunch.
Then, go online to Charity Navigator and research “highly-rated nonprofits dedicated to veterans and military service members.” There, you’ll find a list of wounded troops services worthy of your donations. You’ll find everything from the Adaptive Sports Center to the Air Warrior Courage Foundation, the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, the Fisher House Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation, Homes For Our Troops, various chapters of Paralyzed Veterans of America and many more.
All those listed above receive the top four-star designation from Charity Navigator that signifies that at least 85% of all donations go directly to helping service members (rather than paying for administrators and other expenses).
They’re all good, though my favorite would be the Los Angeles-based Gary Sinise Foundation, whose mission features building mortgage-free specially adapted smart homes for America’s most severely wounded, along with a series of other projects, all geared to helping wounded warriors.
The Gary Sinise Foundation received a rating of 97.50 out of 100 for its financial record and 100 out of 100 in Accountability and Transparency. In 2019, it’s Program Expense Ratio was 89.4%, among the highest of all such non-profits. According to Charity Navigator’s statistics, it costs the foundation just 3 cents for every dollar raised.
There are many more equally worthwhile nonprofits, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to set up a regular donation schedule for more than one, as many as whatever you can comfortably afford. It doesn’t have to be much, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor as well as making life just a little more bearable for those who’ve given so much.
And by doing so, you’ll be telling those wounded warriors that their dedication and sacrifices are deeply appreciated, and that because of them, America sleeps soundly.James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.