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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dying in America

Images courtesy: Melissa Jarboe

Unable to move after being shot by an enemy sniper, Sgt. Jamie Jarboe lay in the blood-soaked dirt of Afghanistan on April 10, 2011. As more bullets whizzed above his head during the chaotic battle, the soldier looked to the heavens and made a promise.

"I'm not dying out here," Sgt. Jarboe said. "I'm going to die someplace like America."

The 27-year-old wounded warrior recounted the harrowing attack, which left him paralyzed, to The Unknown Soldiers on Jan. 12. Speaking in a soft voice and frequently pausing to catch his breath, the soldier explained why he so desperately wanted to make it out of Afghanistan alive.

"I was thinking about my wife and kids," Jamie said. "I just got married."

After being pulled off the battlefield by his brothers in arms, Jamie was still picturing his wife and two stepdaughters as a surgeon covered his face with an oxygen mask. All he wanted was to see their faces again, and after an unconscious journey around the world, he did.

"I woke up at Walter Reed," Jamie said.

The soldier's wife, Melissa Jarboe, described the horror of seeing her badly wounded husband for the first time, while also explaining how the experience forever altered her mindset.

"Before this, I never knew there was a Walter Reed and I never knew what a wounded warrior was," Melissa said. "And now I know too much."

Through sheer courage and tenacity, Jamie and Melissa Jarboe were able to celebrate their first wedding anniversary this past Valentine's Day in a hospital room. And just like the day they were married, the couple had big dreams.

"I'd like to be putting together the pieces and be a family again," Jamie said. "I love my wife and I want to be back with the kids."

Sgt. Jamie Jarboe died on March 21, just over two months after our phone interview.

"There are no words that can describe what this last week has been like knowing that my husband and I would never have a life we always dreamed of," Melissa posted on the "Prayers for Sgt. Jamie Jarboe" Facebook page.

Even though they knew death could be on the horizon, the Jarboes chose to share the most challenging days of their lives with others. In addition to hundreds of Facebook posts, Melissa sent me this e-mail, along with a moving photograph, the night before her husband died.

"Jamie is alive and fighting for his life," she wrote on March 20. "I'm (holding) vigil by his side, loving and kissing him every second of the day!"

As more than 12,000 Facebook followers learned of his passing, with heartfelt messages and tributes pouring in, all I could think of was Jamie's voice. The evening we spoke, the soldier and his wife were preparing for a cross-country flight for yet another surgery. Even though it clearly hurt to talk, the wounded warrior spent almost an hour sharing his experiences.

"It's all very surprising to me," Jamie said about the cards, letters, emails and Facebook messages he was receiving from around the world. "Sometimes I'm almost taken aback when I get words of encouragement and support."

The death of Sgt. Jarboe, who also deployed twice to Iraq, is felt from Afghanistan all the way to Kansas' Fort Riley, where the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment soldier was stationed, and to Frankfort, Ind., where many family and friends live.

For the rest of their lives, Melissa and her daughters will rely on faith while trying to heal from an unforgettable 11-month ordeal.

"Both girls forfeited their Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and spent (the holidays) in the hospital with us," she said. "Never once have they complained, Tom."

Many of us take living in America for granted. All Sgt. Jamie Jarboe wanted was the privilege of dying here. After making some cherished new memories with the people he loved most, it was time to make good on his promise.

"By the grace of God we were given 11 more months to live life and for that I can't be selfish or greedy," Melissa posted on March 21. "We lived every day like we were dying ... because inside we were."


Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Can't Turn Away

Image courtesy: Spc. Eric-James Estrada

When someone volunteers to go overseas and protect my family, that gets my attention. And whether the date reads Sept. 12, 2001 or Mar. 29, 2012, I will continue to devote every ounce of my energy to making sure our country's bravest one percent doesn't fade from the national spotlight.

Over the past week, at least five American service members have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan. From Rhode Island to Idaho, their families grieve a loss that very few of us can comprehend.

Sgt. Joseph D'Augustine, 29, Waldwick, New Jersey
Sgt. William Wilson III, 27, Getzville, New York
Sgt. Daniel Brown, 27, Jerome, Idaho
Capt. Aaron Istre, 37, Vinton, Louisiana
Spc. Dennis Weichel Jr., 29, Providence, Rhode Island

Their tragic deaths come after a brother in arms, Army Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, succumbed to his devastating war injuries in a Topeka, Kansas, hospital after continuing to fight for eleven months after he was shot by an enemy sniper and paralyzed. A column about this hero's life will be posted on this blog soon.

After more than a decade of constant war, the men and women of the United States military refuse to turn away from us. As they continue to serve, sacrifice, and spend many months away from their families, we cannot afford to look the other way.

The mission our troops have been ordered to carry out in Afghanistan, which served as the staging point for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is extraordinarily difficult and complex. Making sure their heroism is recognized and remembered, however, is rather simple. All we have to do is pay attention.

Image courtesy: Cpl. Alfred Lopez

Monday, March 26, 2012

Those Who Lead

Image courtesy: Sgt. Michael Cifuentes

The honorary title of "leader" is often bestowed on politicians, CEOs and even captains of sports teams. Yet only a precious few are willing to risk everything for those who follow them.

As Cpl. Michael Ouellette led from the front in Afghanistan and Iraq, he didn't care about receiving medals or chasing glory.

"All he would talk about were the men he was with and how proud he was of them," his mother, Donna Ouellette, told The Unknown Soldiers. "He didn't talk about the dangers."

Growing up in Manchester, N.H., Mike was a normal, good-natured kid who occasionally caused some harmless mischief. He also enjoyed marathon chess matches with his brother.

"We had games that lasted three days," said Alan Ouellette, now 30.

After high school, Mike attended culinary school and eventually landed in New Orleans. He was back in New Hampshire looking for work as a chef when the horrors of Hurricane Katrina shook him to the core.

"He was always looking to be a part of something bigger than himself," said his sister, Stephanie Ouellette, 33. "Finally, he woke up one day and thought it was time."

Mike decided to join the Marine Corps.

"I was proud of him for wanting to go, but we knew that he would be going to Iraq so that was kind of frightening," his mother said. "But it was his choice."

When the Marine deployed to war-torn Ramadi in 2006, he marveled at the accomplishments of the men and women in uniform around him, while also worrying that their sacrifices were being overlooked back home.

"One of the things he'd always say is, 'Don't watch the news, because they're not supportive of us,'" Stephanie said. "'We're helping people here, and we're doing good things.'"

After returning safely from Iraq and spending some time at sea, Mike's military contract was about to expire as the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment prepared for a 2008 deployment to Afghanistan. Instead of sparing himself, he asked where to sign his name.

"Those were his guys, and they were family," his sister said. "He was very clear about it."

Afghanistan was much different from Iraq, and Mike's mother hoped he would be safer there.

"The last communication was him telling me how beautiful the mountains looked with the snow, that he was OK, and thanks for the care package," Donna said.

On March 22, 2009, Cpl. Ouellette, 28, and fellow Marine Cpl. Anthony Williams, 21, were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"I cannot say enough about how terrible that day was," his sister said while commending the Marine Corps for guiding her family through the tragedy's aftermath.

Soon after Mike's death, incredible stories from the battlefield began to trickle in. The only people not surprised were those who knew him best.

With his left leg blown off and shrapnel embedded deep inside his skin, Mike called out and warned his Marines to brace for another attack. Moments later, enemy fire began, and his team was ready.

"Even as a corpsman worked to stem his massive bleeding, Cpl. Ouellette continued to direct the fire of his squad," an official military account reads.

The valiant Marine, who refused to leave the battlefield until his entire squad was safe, later died in an ambulance. While his heroism earned him the nation's second-highest military honor, his loved ones knew what mattered most.

"It was very important to make sure they all came home," the fallen hero's mother said. "And they did, every last one he trained."

Early last year, in one of the most rugged areas of southern Afghanistan, Marines took to a sandy hilltop and started building a base. When they were finished, the installation was named Combat Outpost Ouellette, with Mike's picture and Navy Cross citation hanging inside.

Responsibility for the remote outpost was recently transferred to the United Kingdom. That's when Donna Ouellette got something in the mail from a British commander.

"I got a letter saying that they would not change the name," she said. "I'm awed."

True leaders are national treasures. Cpl. Michael Ouellette was one of them.

"He protected his men," his brother said. "That's what's most important about his legacy."


Image courtesy: Sgt. Marco Mancha

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Please Pray

Image courtesy: American Strong

Army Sgt. Jamie Jarboe died on Wed., Mar. 21, in Topeka, Kansas, from wounds suffered in an enemy sniper attack on Apr. 10, 2011, in Afghanistan.

For the latest from Jamie's grieving wife, Melissa, please click here.

To read more about this American hero's story, please click here and here. I will be releasing a new column about Sgt. Jarboe, which includes excerpts from my January interview with the hero soldier, in newspapers next week.

Please pray for the Jarboe family.

Note: This post was updated at 4:11 p.m. EDT to reflect new casualty information released by the Department of Defense.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By His Side

Image courtesy: Melissa Jarboe

It's been almost a year since Army Sgt. Jamie Jarboe was shot by an enemy sniper in a tiny southern Afghanistan village.

Early Wednesday, Sgt. Jarboe, who was paralyzed by the terrorist's bullet, was still in the middle of a monumental battle.

"Jamie is alive and fighting for his life," his wife, Melissa Jarboe, wrote to The Unknown Soldiers on Tuesday, Mar. 20.

Last month, I authored a newspaper column about the Jarboes. In recent days, however, some rumors began floating around about the wounded warrior's condition. Wednesday morning on the Prayers for Sgt. Jamie Jarboe Facebook page, Melissa set the record straight.

"There are no words that can describe what this last week has been like knowing that my husband and I would never have a life we always dreamed of," Melissa wrote. "Last Thursday Jamie was placed in a comfort care or hospice setting."

Since everything changed for Jamie, 27, Melissa, 32, and the two children being raised by the couple on Apr. 10, 2011, there has been one constant. From the moment the wounded warrior arrived back to the United States from Afghanistan, his wife has always been there for him.

"Jamie and I spent the last few months planning our funerals, not because we wanted to, because we had to," she wrote. "Jamie made me promise to carry out his final wishes and out of love for my husband I vowed to protect his wishes."

As she prepared to deliver this sad news to the public, the loving wife was curled up next to her wounded husband.

"I'm (vigiling) by his side loving and kissing him every second of the day!" Melissa wrote in Tuesday's e-mail.

Back in January, I had the honor of speaking to Sgt. Jamie Jarboe by telephone. While the soldier's voice was understandably weak, his will was audibly strong. It was enormously courageous of him to speak with a writer in the midst of a slow, painful odeal.

Something the wounded hero said during our interview has resonated with me ever since.

"I want to do what a father does and be what a husband's supposed to be," he said.

Because of you, Sgt. Jarboe, we are all inspired to be better parents, spouses, and Americans. As your devoted wife lay beside you, please allow the prayers of a grateful nation to surround your hospital room during this challenging time.

You fought for us, and for that, we will always be by your side.

"By the grace of God, we were given 11 more months to live life and for that I can't be selfish or greedy," Melissa Jarboe posted. "We lived every day like we were dying...because inside we were."

Note: This post was edited at 4:52 p.m. EDT.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Brave Ducklings

Images courtesy: Phyllis McGeath

Earlier this year, Cpl. Philip McGeath was still alive. Today his smile is a cherished memory to his grieving mother.

"I'm like a mama duck," Phyllis McGeath told The Unknown Soldiers. "I know when one of my ducklings isn't with me."

Phyllis' seven ducklings include two of Cpl. McGeath's younger brothers, Lance Cpl. Kenneth McGeath and Pfc. Allen McGeath, who are also Marines. But the Arlington, Texas, mother also feels a great sense of responsibility for an eighth — her eldest son's wife, Sarah.

"She's suffering," the grieving mother said. "They had a lot of dreams."

One of those dreams was having children together.

"They had a baby boy name and a baby girl name picked out," Phyllis said.

With only weeks remaining in the 25-year-old Marine's first Afghanistan deployment, his loved ones were overwhelmed with excitement. Sarah was setting up their new apartment near North Carolina's Camp Lejeune, while the "mama duck" prepared to put her eldest son back under her wing.

"I let myself become complacent by accident," she said. "I let myself feel it was over and he'd be home."

Philip wanted to join the Marine Corps ever since his family spent a few years in Okinawa, Japan, while his father, David McGeath, served as an airman. Though Philip flirted with Air Force and police careers, the "very physical" young man went to boot camp in 2008 and graduated a Marine.

Despite the risks of post-9/11 military service, Philip's decision made his parents proud.

"I would always put on my brave face and cheer him on," his mother said.

The Marine had to put on his own brave face after two of his five brothers decided to follow in his footsteps.

"At first, he wasn't real happy that his younger brothers were going to go in," their mother said. "But when they made it through boot camp, he was ecstatic."

Philip left for Afghanistan in July 2011.

"We loved him and supported him," Phyllis said, her voice cracking from emotion. "This is what he wanted, and he wanted to do it well."

Even though the comforts many Americans take for granted were gone, Philip seemed to genuinely enjoy serving with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in southern Afghanistan.

"They had showers set up, but they couldn't get the water warm enough," the Marine's mom said. "But at least he made sure to shave every day."

As darkness filled Afghanistan's war-torn night skies, Philip called home on Christmas morning in America.

"He was excited," the mother said. "I said: 'Keep your chin up; look to God. But watch where you walk.'"

"Always, Mom," the confident Marine replied.

On Jan. 18, Cpl. McGeath was killed while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan's Helmand province. According to his mother, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle "came and blew him up" in a civilian square. She said three Marines were wounded, including one seriously, in the cowardly terrorist attack.

"It was such a sucker punch," Phyllis said less than two months after her son was killed. "I never, ever, ever expected this."

One of the Gold Star mother's only comforts is how fellow Marines responded to the tragedy.

"He was never alone," she said. "I was told by several of his squad members at the memorial service how they all stood by him as he was laying on the stretcher."

Though angry at the terrorist who murdered her son and annoyed by the subsequent media obsession over Whitney Houston's death, Phyllis won't allow herself to become bitter.

"He lived a full life in 25 years," she said. "We may not have thought it was done, but God thought it was."

Her focus is now on making sure her devastated daughter-in-law's dreams stay alive.

"We want her to love again and have babies," Phyllis candidly explained. "Philip wouldn't begrudge her any of that happiness."

As Phyllis McGeath adjusts to life without one of her ducklings, she hopes a media-driven culture will start paying more attention to the brave men and women who protect the pond.

"I just want people to understand that there is still a war going on," the mother of fallen Marine Cpl. Philip McGeath said.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Courage to Live

Image courtesy: Vogt family

When The Unknown Soldiers last posted an update on wounded Army 1st Lt. Nick Vogt, the situation was dire. The Army Ranger, who lost his legs in Afghanistan on Nov. 12, 2011, had barely survived a recent surgery to repair one of his lungs.

Today, while the situation is still very serious, 1st Lt. Vogt is out of the intensive care unit, according to his family's Facebook page.

"Nick proudly wheeled himself out of ICU and headed for the long hallway and elevator that took us up to (the fourth floor)," the soldier's mother, Sheila Vogt, posted on Friday, Mar. 9. "Even though it was hard to say good-bye to so many, everyone agreed that they only want to see Nick again as a visitor (and not a patient)."

The entire Vogt family, including the wounded 24-year-old Ranger, are infinitely thankful to the doctors who saved the double amputee's life.

"We've gotten to know many of them very well, and we are indebted to them for the amazing medical care they've given to Nick," the mother posted on Mar. 8. "Thank you, everyone, in ICU. God bless you all."

The Vogt family is going through an ordeal that few of us can imagine. While we all hope and pray the worst is over, this story cannot fade from our hearts and minds as time passes.

Many wounded combat veterans like Nick, as well as their families and caregivers, expend an almost impossible amount of physical and emotional energy on a daily basis. They deserve our constant support, awareness, and prayers.

"It has been 2 1/2 days of breathing on his own," Nick's father posted on Mar. 7. "This is a big deal."

First Lt. Nick Vogt put a promising career in medicine on hold after graduating from West Point to care for others on the battlefield. By all accounts, he wanted to go to Afghanistan and truly make a difference. He did.

Starting today, let us follow this wounded warrior's example. If we treat every breath as a big deal, perhaps we can make a difference too.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Peacemaker

Image courtesy: Michael G. Reagan Portrait Foundation

From a young age, Eric W. Herzberg was trying to make peace.

"I actually always thought he would be a nuclear arms negotiator," his father said. "He was always assessing the situation and trying to find the solution."

Instead of a diplomat, Eric became a Marine. But according to his dad, who also is named Eric Herzberg, peace remained his ultimate goal.

"He was a patriot from a very, very young age," his father said.

Eric's dad served in the Army, which may have spurred the boy's intense loyalty to the red, white and blue. When his family moved to Canada for five years, the younger Eric would become incensed when television ads for the 1996 Olympics extolled the virtues of Canada over the United States.

"He would jump toward the TV and yell at it," his father said with a laugh.

After moving back to his homeland, Eric tried out for the high-school football team in Severna Park, Md., despite never having played a down in his life.

"It was an outcome of this philosophy that he had where he just wanted to challenge himself, particularly physically," his dad said. "Football was just a part of it."

Young Eric made the team, and after graduation, he didn't want the physical challenges to end. After terrorists attacked his beloved country on Sept. 11, 2001, he started seriously thinking about joining the military.

"He never wavered or gave it a second thought," his father said. "He said, 'This is my purpose.'"

The war in Iraq had reached one of its most violent, uncertain stages when Eric finished boot camp in October 2005.

"He said something I'll never forget," Eric's father said as his voice became quiet. "He said, 'I want to go to Iraq, and I want to go there as soon as possible.'

"I remember exactly where we were when he said that," he continued. "As a dad, you're scared to death, but I couldn't have been more proud of him."

Lance Cpl. Herzberg was deeply concerned about his mother, Regina Barnhurst, in the days before he deployed. Most of Eric's time before deploying was spent assuring his mom, his elder sister, Katie, and his younger brother, Matthew, that everything would be OK.

"He was a very sensitive young man and felt like it was the right thing to do," his dad said.

Eric, 20, was serving in Iraq's volatile Anbar province with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment when his dad's doorbell rang about 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2006. Two Marines were standing in the rain on his front porch.

"Time just froze," he said. "I knew why they were there, and I really wasn't going to let them in."

After being informed that his son was killed earlier that day while conducting combat operations, the elder Eric nearly landed on a self-destructive path.

"I try to describe it as walking on the edge of a razor blade," the Gold Star father explained. "You can't do it for very long, and you will have to fall on one side or the other."

He said it was tempting to numb the pain with alcohol and pills.

"I can remember being so broken," Eric said. "I just didn't care."

Through faith, however, the father became determined to turn his son's death into something positive for the nation he left behind.

"I just marvel at the way he was so selfless," the father said. "I don't know if I could do what he did."

He launched a website — at — to remember his son. He worked with the mother of one of Eric's fellow Marines to launch scholarship programs in Maryland and Florida. He also challenged himself to run the grueling Marine Corps Marathon.

"If I had thought of Eric as a victim, I don't think I could have functioned," the dad explained. "But he was doing something that he chose and something that he loved."

Peace is hard to find for this fallen hero's family, friends and fellow Marines. Peace is also hard to find in Iraq, which experienced decades of tyranny and war. But thanks to patriots like Lance Cpl. Eric W. Herzberg, at least there's a chance.


Image courtesy: Eric Herzberg

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sacrificing Everything

Image courtesy: Cpl. Reece Lodder

Marines like Cpl. Kyle Click risk their lives in strange countries to protect the United States of America. They also sacrifice some of the best years of their lives to become part of a cause that's bigger than themselves.

For Cpl. Click, his days involve searching for improvised explosive devices with his trusted, loyal detection dog, Windy. Led by its 22-year-old handler, this highly skilled dog has saved countless coalition troops and innocent Afghan civilians from being killed and maimed by the bombs that cowardly terrorists plant all around Afghan villages.

When Cpl. Reece Lodder, a Marine combat correspondent who was profiled by The Unknown Soldiers before deploying to southern Afghanistan, sent me the above and below photographs, I was extremely grateful for three things.

First, I was relieved Cpl. Lodder and his fellow Marines are safe. Second, I was overwhelmed with appreciation that he'd even think of e-mailing me from the battlefield. Third, his amazing shots help remind us that as politicians and the media try to create their own narrative about the war in Afghanistan, all that really matters is that our country has thousands of brave men and women in harm's way. And as Lodder's brilliant pictures prove, they are doing an extraordinary job.

Tragically, at least three Americans have been killed in Afghanistan so far this month. According to the Pentagon, all three casualties occurred in the volatile south.

Staff Sgt. Jordan Bear, 25, Denver, Colorado
Pfc. Payton Jones, 19, Marble Falls, Texas
Cpl. Conner Lowry, 24, Chicago, Illinois

Even though the New York, Washington, and Los Angeles-based national media rarely talk about the war in Afghanistan unless a controversy erupts, these three combat deaths sadly demonstrate that this ongoing conflict affects major cities like Chicago and Denver in addition to small ones like Marble Falls, Texas, population 6,000. At this hour, families in all three cities are grieving, and we should be mourning along with them.

Thousands of miles from our shores, Cpl. Kyle Click is holding a leash and guiding Windy the dog through treacherous post-9/11 terrain. Somewhere nearby, Cpl. Reece Lodder is snapping photos and sending them home to a country that has largely turned the page on the war he is risking his life to document.

For those of us at home, the easy way out of Afghanistan is looking the other way. The noble thing, however, is to do what generations before us have done: devote every ounce of our energy toward supporting those who sacrifice everything for our freedom and security.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where's the Outrage?

Images courtesy: U.S. Air Force/Adrian Rowan

On the rare occasions when U.S. troops make serious mistakes, such as accidentally burning the Koran, there is worldwide outrage. On the frequent occasions when U.S. troops are murdered by terrorists, there is mostly silence.

In January, a video apparently showing a group of Marines urinating on a Taliban corpse swiftly spread across the globe, with The New York Times leading the charge.

"Even after seven years, the photos of Army soldiers abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison are an ugly black mark on the American presence in Iraq," the newspaper's editorial board wrote on Jan. 13. "Now there is a new scar on the country's reputation."

While desecration of the dead cannot be condoned, it is shameful for some national media pundits to condemn an entire all-volunteer military force for the unfortunate actions of a few.

One week before the editorial was published, four Indiana National Guard soldiers — Staff Sgt. Jonathan Metzger, 32; Spc. Robert Tauteris Jr., 44; Spc. Christopher Patterson, 20; and Spc. Brian Leonhardt, 21 — were killed in Afghanistan's Kandahar province when their vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device planted by terrorists.

Other than listing the fallen soldiers' names, The New York Times wrote nothing about the deadly attack. Even though terrorists routinely desecrate the bodies of coalition troops and Afghan civilians with crude bombs indiscriminately buried near roadways and schools, killers of American service members are actually given a voice by some national media outlets.

"We strongly condemn the inhuman act of wild American soldiers, as ever, and consider this act in contradiction with all human and ethical norms," a preposterous Taliban statement, published by The New York Times in a Jan. 12 story about the urination video, reads.

The Taliban embodies the word "inhuman." It has harbored Osama bin Laden, raped and tortured thousands of women, murdered defenseless children and robbed our country of some of its best and brightest patriots. Enemy propaganda had no place in America after we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, nor should it after being struck at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.

On Feb. 22, after copies of the Koran were accidentally burned at Bagram Air Base, The New York Times printed a quote from Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of Afghan Parliament, which urged attacks against Americans. The quote will not be re-printed in this column.

Since Khawasi incited terrorism in the pages of an American newspaper and elsewhere, several U.S. troops have been killed and wounded in violent attacks.

The Koran-burning mistake, which elicited immediate apologies from President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Gen. John Allen, commander of the U.S.-led war effort, received more media attention than the deaths of any U.S. troops since 30 American service members, including 22 Navy SEALs, died in an Aug. 6, 2011, helicopter crash.

The Feb. 10 death of Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, went virtually unnoticed by the national press. That's because even though the Marine was from North Arlington, N.J., just five miles from Newark, where Whitney Houston's memorial service was held, his ultimate sacrifice was deemed by ratings-hungry media executives to be far less important than the death of a pop singer.

Almost every week in this column, you read the words of grieving wives, husbands, moms, dads, sisters and brothers of American troops who have lost their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq.

"Nobody wants it to happen to them," Maria Simpson said after losing her son, Lance Cpl. Abraham Simpson, 19, and then her nephew, Sgt. Jonathan Simpson, 25, in Iraq. "But on the other hand, why should it happen to other people but not me?"

It shouldn't have happened to the Simpson family. It also shouldn't have happened to the families of U.S. troops murdered in Afghanistan after the Taliban used accidental burnings of the Koran to ignite more violence in a country that our brave men and women in uniform have selflessly shielded since 2001.

As Americans, we must ask ourselves why national outrage is rarely directed at our enemies when they kill and maim U.S. troops. While we shouldn't riot in the streets like those trying to tear apart Afghanistan, shouldn't we at least care?