Today is our 2,687th day in Iraq and our 3,215th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4413
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4274
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3952
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3554
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 185
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,206
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 760
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,457
Journalists - Iraq: 338
Academics Killed - Iraq: 437
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 021, 675, 900, 000 .00
As you're probably aware, the media in this country always focuses on the "body count", whether it's the 'enemy' or our own soldiers, those that gave the last full measure of their devotion always seem to garner the most headlines. In any war, the wounded always outnumber the dead, and these are the soldiers that are often overlooked. Over the years, we've tried to stay on top of the goings on at Walter Reed, the diagnosis and treatment of TBI and PTSD, and what the government has been doing to make sure these soldiers have a chance to get back into society.Here is one of those stories.
With 2,000 American military personnel injured in action since the beginning of the year, 2010 may be one of the worst years for troops being wounded in Afghanistan. Now, many of them have gone from fighting on the war front to a very different battle on the home front.
NewsCenter 5's Liz Brunner traveled to Washington, D.C., to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital to meet with Sgt. Brendan Ferreira, 23, from Assonet.
"Iraq is more like being a police officer and Afghanistan is more like a real war," he said. "You can't let your guard down in that country. Somebody strapped a bunch of bombs to themselves and ran up behind me. I knew I lost my hand in the explosion. They didn't know if I was going to make it."
Those are the memories of March 9, 2010, that Ferreira carries with him every day. Days before his 23rd birthday, a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan killed two of his fellow soldiers and left him critically injured.
Ferreira's mother, Lisa, said the Army official who called to tell them about their son said he had been very seriously injured.
Ferreira lost his left arm below his elbow, had a compound fracture in his right leg, a severed artery in his left leg, shrapnel injuries and burns to his face and body, 10 stitches in his eye, total hearing loss in his left ear and half of his hearing was gone in his right ear.
Lisa and Michael Ferreira said they didn't even recognize their own son when they first saw him at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"He was so swollen," Michael Ferreira said.
"I think the only reason why we knew it was him was when we looked at his left arm and he had his tattoos and we said, 'That's Brendan,'" Lisa Ferreira said.
Ferreira grew up in Assonet. After high school, he became a professional arborist, but held a secret desire to join the military. After serving 14 months in Iraq, he went to Afghanistan. Ferreira has earned two Purple Hearts.
From his hospital bed, Ferreira said his work is not done.
"If I could suddenly grow my arm back, just for the rest of the time that my soldiers are there, and get my sight back and get everything back, instead of running home and enjoying it, I would run right back over there and help them," he said.
But months of healing, therapy, learning how to use a prosthetic arm, standing and trying to walk again lie ahead of Ferreira.
His parents said it has been a difficult journey to watch.
"As a mom, you're supposed to be the one to take that all away. I can't take that away from him. He has to go through it," Lisa Ferreira said.
"I cry every day. But I got to stay strong for him," Michael Ferreira said.
The Ferreiras said they feel very fortunate that their son is alive and came home and that they can talk to him and feel him. They said they feel bad for the families that can't do that.
Lisa Ferreira said it pains her to think about the families of her son's two friends who were killed in the attack.
"Their son came home in a box," she said.
But what defines a "hero"? In this day and age, it's a term that's been overused to death. I'm actually starting to be annoyed by the local media and their splashy graphics that proclaim "FALLEN HERO" whenever there is another casualty of war. While there is no doubt that some of their exploits are indeed noble and heroic, the vast majority of our soldiers are just ordinary people....and "hero" is not a label that should sit well with them. There's a lengthy piece that was posted at Truthout last week
that I hesitated to post....but nevertheless, here it is.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I loved reading accounts of American heroism from World War II. I remember being riveted by a book about the staunch Marine defenders of Wake Island and inspired by John F. Kennedy's exploits saving the sailors he commanded on PT-109. Closer to home, I had an uncle -- like so many vets of that war, relatively silent on his own experiences -- who had been at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, and then fought them in a brutal campaign on Guadalcanal, where he earned a Bronze Star. Such men seemed like heroes to me, so it came as something of a shock when, in 1980, I first heard Yoda's summary of war in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker, if you remember, tells the wizened Jedi master that he seeks "a great warrior." "Wars not make one great," Yoda replies.
Okay, it was George Lucas talking, I suppose, but I was struck by the truth of that statement. Of course, my little epiphany didn't come just because of Yoda or Lucas. By my late teens, even as I was gearing up for a career in the military, I had already begun to wonder about the common ethos that linked heroism to military service and war. Certainly, military service (especially the life-and-death struggles of combat) provides an occasion for the exercise of heroism, but even then I instinctively knew that it didn't constitute heroism.
Ever since the events of 9/11, there's been an almost religious veneration of U.S. service members as "Our American Heroes" (as a well-intentioned sign puts it at my local post office). That a snappy uniform or even intense combat in far-off countries don't magically transform troops into heroes seems a simple point to make, but it's one worth making again and again, and not only to impressionable, military-worshipping teenagers.
Here, then, is what I mean by "hero": someone who behaves selflessly, usually at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to comfort or empower others and to make the world a better place. Heroes, of course, come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and colors, most of them looking nothing like John Wayne or John Rambo or GI Joe (or Jane).
"Hero," sadly, is now used far too cavalierly. Sportscasters, for example, routinely refer to highly paid jocks who hit walk-off home runs or score game-winning touchdowns as heroes. Even though I come from a family of firefighters (and one police officer), the most heroic person I've ever known was neither a firefighter nor a cop nor a jock: She was my mother, a homemaker who raised five kids and endured without complaint the ravages of cancer in the 1970s, with its then crude chemotherapy regimen, its painful cobalt treatments, the collateral damage of loss of hair, vitality, and lucidity. In refusing to rail against her fate or to take her pain out on others, she set an example of selfless courage and heroism I'll never forget.
Finally this morning, I leave you with a many-page report
from the BBC. When we still had a forum, I was making a half-hearted attempt to keep track of all the drone strikes in Pakistan under the heading "Drone Wars". This is so little-known that it's easy for the MSM to overlook it, so we are essentially carrying on an undeclared war against what is allegedly a 'major regional ally' in our ongoing war against Al-Qaeda. It's surely worth the time to check out.