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Dec 24 2012

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Remembering the Forgotten

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Deployed But Not Forgotten

Now a moment to take stock as we cross the finish line.

Presents purchased and wrapped, lovingly arranged around the tree with the decorations just so? Stockings hung with care? Guest beds made up? Food and drink laid in? Bing and Nat piping in holiday spirit?

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas in your confines?

Good.

You’ve made excellent use of the frantic four-week run to this moment. And the best is yet to come.

Maybe you have a son or daughter home from college. Or parents and siblings are in town visiting. Luckier still are those parents with young children, still infused with the magic of Christmas, whose anticipation and wonder can only be experienced.

The word people most associate with Christmas is “family,” and for better or worse, for richer or poorer, we all try to gather to celebrate together. In turn, each of those individual celebrations tie communities together, and then faiths, and ultimately our nation in a sense of shared purpose. It is a moving and hopeful reflection of our country.

It is thus with a deep sadness that a critical cohort of Americans have largely slipped away from our collective conscience – the 68,000 Americans holding down the front line in Afghanistan.

11 Christmases ago, the Department of Defense was overwhelmed by packages and cards and gifts four our soldiers serving in Afghanistan, just after the tragedy of 9-11. Now, the war seems distant and disconnected from our daily lives. Somehow abstract and sanitized in our popular imagination.

A child born on the day US and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government would be in 6th grade now. The palpable fear of terror that gripped the nation at the beginning of the last decade has ebbed, replaced by new fears much more immediate and closer to home.

But that has not changed the nature of the danger that the men and women our armed forces face on daily basis in Afghanistan.

As the nation has been stunned by the shooting in Newtown and its aftermath this month, 8 brave Americans were killed in Afghanistan this December. Altogether, 249 American military families will be missing a loved one at their tables, this year and every year after; soldiers, sailors and Marines that paid the ultimate price in service to their country.

They should never be forgotten.

Our brave Americans stand guard – uncomplaining – at improvised bases, primitive by almost any civilian standard. They make that sacrifice in part so that the rest of us can have our celebrations in peace and security. It is a deeply moving selflessness, consistent with the holiday that we celebrate, that motivates these most special Americans.

It’s cold in Kabul tonight.

23 degrees F.

Tomorrow, instead of opening presents, our forces will be on patrol in an environment of acute danger. They do this willingly. Their efforts, mostly unheralded and unsung, deserve our recognition and our gratitude.

So as you gather around the table tomorrow to enjoy a meal in fellowship with family and friends, to honor our faith or practice our traditions, take a moment to give thanks to our warriors in Afghanistan, as well as the other brave souls who stand posts around the world, who work selflessly to keep us safe.

Freedom isn’t free. And those that ensure that freedom deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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