Image courtesy: Pfc. David Hauk, U.S. Army. Kandahar, Afghanistan, November 12, 2009

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wide Awake

Image courtesy: Cpl. Adam Leyendecker

As millions of Americans drink coffee and wake up for another week at work, or another week trying to find a job, thousands of U.S. troops are on patrol in the dangerous heat of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tuesday's high in Kandahar is expected to reach 109 degrees, while Baghdad's forecasted high is 104. To many service members apart from their families in post-9/11 war zones, the day of the week simply doesn't matter; it's just another brutally hot day in a strange land.

Outside of base facilities and USO centers, troops in Afghanistan are not enjoying air conditioning and cold lemonade. They are wearing uniforms and carrying heavy gear, as enemy fighters look down from mountaintops, hide in caves, or use women and children as human shields.

Despite challenging conditions that are unimaginable to someone like myself, who hasn't served in the military, our forces are doing a spectacular job every day, night, and weekend. A successful Special Operations Forces mission to secure a village in Afghanistan's Badghis province is a perfect, albeit tough, example. Upon being attacked while arriving at the Panerak village, heroic American forces and their Afghan counterparts killed 23 terrorists, making the area much more secure for civilians caught in the hellish triangle of war.

These types of missions carry significant risk. The first of three U.S. Marines listed below to recently die in combat in Afghanistan was reportedly killed in the Panerak village firefight.

Cpl. William Woitowicz, 23, Middlesex, Massachusetts
Cpl. Matthew Richard, 21, Acadia, Louisiana
Lance Cpl. Nicholas O'Brien, 21, Stanley, North Carolina

As the tragic death of another soldier in Iraq shows us, on the heels of five U.S. troops being killed there last week, that country remains dangerous for thousands of Americans still serving there.

Pfc. Matthew England, 22, Gainesville, Missouri

As the hot, hard sun beats down on their backs, brave American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are wide awake. Good townsfolk in Massachusetts, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Missouri are also thinking about our men and women in uniform at this hour, as they mourn the loss of hometown heroes.

It's time for the rest of America to wake up too. Now would be an appropriate time.

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