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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You

Images courtesy: Cpl. Reece Lodder

Last month, The Unknown Soldiers introduced you to Cpl. Reece Lodder, a Marine who, after having an early Thanksgiving with his loved ones, was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Cpl. Lodder, who took the picture above of a recent feast, is now deployed to the war zone, apart from his wife and family.

The combat correspondent checked in via e-mail on Nov. 15.

"I'm doing well out here," he wrote. "Busy as ever, working past 10 every night. Putting out quality stories and imagery though, which is my purpose for being here."

Lodder is too humble to mention that he's risking his life to bring stories like this one home. But to understand the dangers our troops still face in Afghanistan, one should simply read articles like the one he filed from Garmsir, a district in the volatile Helmand province.

"The threat of improvised explosive devices still looms over the district, but the pervasive insurgency of two years ago has almost completely disappeared," the Marine wrote.

Even though the Marine reporter just arrived in Afghanistan, Lodder knows what is being sacrificed there. Since Wednesday of last week, at least seven American troops have been lost in battle.

Cpl. Zachary Reiff, 22, Preston, Iowa
Pvt. Jackie Diener II, 20, Boyne City, Michigan
Lance Cpl. Joshua Corral, 19, Danville, California
Pfc. Adam Dobereiner, 21, Moline, Illinois
Spc. Sean Walsh, 21, San Jose, California
Spc. James Burnett Jr., 21, Wichita, Kansas
Pfc. Matthew Colin, 22, Navarre, Florida

None of these seven American heroes reached their 23rd birthday.

As we enjoy the company of our loved ones around the holidays, let's pause to think about the Reiff, Diener, Corral, Dobereiner, Walsh, Burnett, and Colin families. Not only are there empty spots at their dinner tables, but in just the past few days, they've been forced to confront the incomprehensible reality that their loved ones have been killed in action.

If you're looking for something to be thankful for, look no further than America's newest Gold Star families. They have sacrificed more for this country than we could every repay, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

While exchanging e-mails with Cpl. Lodder, I asked him if he needed a care package.

"I would love to receive a care package of any kind," he responded. "We don't have any kind of store or anything out here, so anything is welcomed!"

Despite the advice of misguided Massachusetts law professor, who scolded Suffolk University students for holding a care package drive, many helpful items are already on the way to Lodder and his fellow Marines in Afghanistan. And don't worry, Prof. Michael Avery, your care package, which contains photos of fallen troops you dishonored with your despicable e-mail rant, will be on its way shortly.

Every day, I worry about the safety of brave service members like Cpl. Lodder, who put their lives on the line in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world for our freedom and security. But what I go through is nothing compared to their relatives and friends, like this Marine's wife, who spend nearly every waking moment waiting, wondering, and worrying about their loved ones.

When I mailed Cpl. Reece Lodder's care package, I also sent a Christmas card to his wife. While troops overseas need our constant support, it's critical for all of us to remember that their families fight these wars too. Mrs. Lodder, your husband is doing extremely important work, and on this Thanksgiving holiday, I know God is watching over him.

Hopefully, all of our deployed troops will have enough time, as well as enough food and utensils, to eat a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps they'll even have the luxury of calling or Skyping their loved ones back home. When dinner is over, though, it will be back to war, and all the sacrifices that go with it.

To every active duty warrior, veteran, and loved one: Happy Thanksgiving. As thousands of military families spend holidays apart in a time of war, we thank these patriots for keeping our families together in a land of relative peace.

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