Today is our 2,967th day in Iraq, and our 3,495th 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): 4452
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4311
Since Handover (6/29/04): 363
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 224
Since Operation New Dawn: 34
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,566
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 875
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq : 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 188, 899, 900, 000 .00
So...Osama bin Laden is dead. Unless the troops start coming home this afternoon, the reality is in the short-term this changes nothing. Nevertheless...there's no reason not to pause and at least heave a collective sigh of relief. Of course IAVA has something to say about this.
Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the country's first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, issued the following statement in response to the death of Osama bin Laden:
“This is a proud day for America, and especially for every member of IAVA who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. The IAVA community congratulates our brave brothers and sisters involved in this historic operation.
We hope this news inspires renewed support and appreciation for the continuing sacrifice of our troops and veterans. More than 2.2 million service members have worked toward this day for almost 10 years and they all deserve praise,” said IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq veteran and 9/11 first responder. “While this news brings closure to many Americans, it unfortunately does not eliminate the threat to our troops overseas. April was the deadliest month in Iraq in nearly two years, and over the weekend the Taliban launched another spring offensive in Afghanistan. America cannot afford to lose focus on our troops and their families at this critical time.
As Americans everywhere unite, we encourage them to reflect on the nearly 50,000 troops lost and wounded on the path to this historic moment. There are still many fights ahead, both overseas and here at home. We hope that the powerful, patriotic emotion of this news will carry over into lasting support for our returning troops, who are facing staggering employment, health and education challenges as they transition to civilian life."
I suppose it would be appropriate to hear from someone who was in one of the towers on this day. Even I'll admit to a wee touch of the PTSD on and around 9/11 under certain conditions...and I was 200 miles away. I can only imagine what people who were there are thinking on this morning. This story comes from the Palm Beach Post.
ROYAL PALM BEACH — He was a bright-eyed 22-year-old, beginning his career in the financial industry with Morgan Stanley.
It was the second day of a three week company orientation for Justin Girard of Royal Palm Beach.
"I went to lunch with a buddy of mine on the plaza, and we're looking at the majesty of the buildings," he said.
That was September 10th.
The next day, an hour after he took his seat on the 60th floor of the South Tower, the North tower was hit.
As he and dozens of other sat in the staircase, deciding whether to evacuate, the building he was in, was hit.
"The building shook like it was made of rubber," said Girard.
"Your mind kind of slows all that stuff down. It probably only lasted three or four seconds. But it felt like it shook for a considerable period of time. You felt like it was falling, you couldn't get your bearings straight."
Since then, he has spoken to area schools about his surviving the attack that killed 2,606 who were in the majestic buildings.
He has also wondered, especially on the anniversaries, whether Osama bin Laden would ever pay.
"In my mind, he was responsible," said Girard.
On Sunday night, the bill came due.
Girard was glued to the TV.
"I don't think the wounds will ever fully be closed. But certainly this brings closure in some ways to 9/11."
He's struck by the time it took, not just that officials had their eye on bin Laden's compound since August, but that Americans have been trying to kill bin Laden since the day that bin Laden's followers nearly killed him.
"Ten years, it took so long. It's just unbelievable that as large and as powerful as we are, that it took that long to bring him to justice," said Girard.
And yet, even as we celebrate here at home...we should not forget that Americans are still fighting and dying nearly every day.
Suzanna Ausborn first met her husband during a deployment in Kuwait, where their work and friendship in the same Air Force unit would later blossom into a budding romance.
She soon fell in love with Jeff, an only child and Alabama resident. And despite the 19-year veteran's regular deployments halfway around the world, she said they had remained inseparable.
"Jeff is one of the types of people when you meet, you want to be around him all the time," she said. "You never want to be away from him."
But when Suzanna didn't receive a call from her husband earlier this week, she began to worry.
"We talked nearly every day -- that's how I knew something was wrong, I didn't hear from him."
Maj. Jeff Ausborn was among eight American service members killed on Wednesday by an Afghan pilot who opened fire at an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. contractor was also killed in a shooting that has since prompted an investigation into the suspected security breach that resulted in the deaths.
The alleged killer was found dead in a separate section of Kabul International Airport, according to a statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Investigators say it is unclear whether the suspected perpetrator died of his wounds or committed suicide.
Meanwhile, thousands miles of away, Suzanna said at first she didn't want to believe that her husband had been killed.
"I wanted to come to Dover (Air Force Base) last night to see my husband or feel his presence one last time. I wanted to salute him one last time," she said.
"But what I really wanted is for it to be a mistake and for them to say 'No, that's not your husband there, sorry, let's undo this.' But that didn't happen."
Her husband's casket, draped in an American flag, returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Saturday morning. The arrival of his body also coincides with a Taliban announcement Saturday of a new offensive against allied troops and Afghan security forces.
"And so as we got closer to his casket coming off the airplane, reality set in, that really, it's him," she said. "He's never coming back."
Today...there will be very little different happening in Iraq and Afghanistan that wasn't happening yesterday. But to borrow a phrase from a statesman uttered during the height of another war..."Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." (Winston Churchill, after El Alamein)