Marines carry wounded troops to a waiting helicopter after their armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Marja, Afghanistan, where a major offensive is taking place. (Photo credit: Brennan Linsley / Associated Press — The Washington Post)
By Craig Whitlock, Greg Jaffe and Julie Tate
February 24, 2010
More than eight years after the Taliban was toppled from power, the number of U.S. military fatalities in the war in Afghanistan is nearing 1,000, a grim milestone in a resurgent conflict that is claiming the lives of an increasing number of troops who had survived previous combat tours in Iraq.
As of Tuesday, 996 U.S. military personnel had died while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. The roll call of the fallen began on Oct. 10, 2001, when Air Force Master Sgt. Evander E. Andrews was killed in a forklift accident in Qatar while building an airstrip in preparation for the invasion of Afghanistan. The latest confirmed addition came Sunday, when Army Pfc. J.R. Salvacion, 27, of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit near Kandahar.
The number of dead is small in comparison with U.S. casualties in Iraq, where 4,366 uniformed personnel have died since 2003. But as operations intensify in Afghanistan, the war is killing more and more service members who came home safely after serving in Iraq, only to return to the battlefield in another theater.
Since Dec. 1, at least 30 percent of the American military personnel who have died in Afghanistan have been veterans of the Iraq war, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Among them: Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Eckard, 30, who was killed Saturday in Helmand province, the site of a major NATO offensive targeting Taliban-held territory. Eckard, an explosives specialist from Hickory, N.C., had disarmed hundreds of makeshift bombs during four tours in Iraq. It was his first assignment to Afghanistan. He leaves behind a wife and two sons, ages 4 and 18 months.
“Chris loved the Marines. He was all about the Marines,” said his sister-in-law, Chastity Eckard. “This was going to be his last tour.”
The impending milestone of 1,000 deaths hasn’t drawn much notice in the United States or in Afghanistan, despite the Obama administration’s focus on the war and the launch this month of the largest U.S.-NATO military operation in the country since 2001.
When the United States crossed the threshold of 1,000 deaths in the Iraq war in September 2004, there was widespread concern in Washington that public support for the conflict would collapse. To some, the relatively quiet approach of the new benchmark is a sign that the country has grown more sober-minded in the way it perceives the war.
“We’ve learned that the public doesn’t react reflexively to the tote board of [war deaths],” said Peter Feaver, who served in George W. Bush’s administration and teaches political science at Duke University.
Others see a fundamental change in American foreign policy after almost nine years of combat. “The American people and the governing class have accepted that war has become a permanent condition,” said retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a history professor at Boston University whose son was killed in Iraq in 2007. “Protracted war has become a widely accepted part of our politics.” Even before his son’s death, Bacevich spoke out forcefully against the wars.
More than 600 troops from NATO allies and other countries have died in Afghanistan since 2001. Thousands of Afghan civilians, soldiers and police officers have also died in the war, although the precise number is unknown.
Back to the front, again
For many Americans, what is most striking is that so many Marines and soldiers have died during their second or third combat tours. Of the 73 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan since Dec. 1, at least 23 had previously served in Iraq, according to The Post’s analysis.
“It affirms what we already knew, which is that the burden of this very long war is being borne by a small percentage of the population,” Bacevich said.
Both the Obama and Bush administrations have wrestled with how to highlight the sacrifices of the troops and, to the extent possible, share the burden with the rest of the country. During the debate last year over the Afghanistan strategy, President Obama made high-profile visits to Arlington National Cemetery and Dover Air Force Base to witness the return of fallen U.S. troops. Lawmakers, meanwhile, have repeatedly boosted pay and benefits for service members, sometimes to the consternation of the Pentagon, which has become concerned that the surging personnel costs are squeezing out money for new weapons.
But the White House, Congress and the military seem broadly comfortable with the notion that a relatively small number of professional soldiers and Marines should be expected to fight multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“There are enormous and disturbing moral implications in the tacit agreement we have made to have such a small percentage of our population bear so great a burden,” Bacevich said. “But there is no recognition of it or desire to raise questions about it.” …
Related reports on this site
Operation Moshtarak Has Begun (Feb. 13, 2010)
Marines Mass for Marjah Assault (Feb. 10, 2010)
Major Afghan Offensive Imminent (Feb. 5, 2010)
Afghanistan Fog of War (Jan. 31, 2010)
Deadly Day in AfPak War Zone (Jan. 23, 2010)
Deadly Day in Afghanistan (Jan. 11, 2010)
Afghanistan Tougher Than Iraq (Nov. 28, 2009)
Escalating Afghanistan Violence (Nov. 20, 2009)
Afghan War Closes in on Kabul (Oct. 28, 2009)
14 Americans Dead in Afghanistan (Oct. 26, 2009)
Deadly July for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. An Army carry team carries a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Chester W. Hosford of Hastings, Minn. Wednesday July 8, 2009 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The transfer cases of 2nd Lt. Derwin I. Williams of Glenwood, Ill., second from right, and Pfc. Nicholas Gideon of Murrieta Calif., right, are already loaded into the transfer vehicle. According to the Department of Defense, all three soldiers died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (Photo credit: Associated Press / Steve Ruark)
February 23, 2010
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web: http://www.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=13328
Media Contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public Contact: http://www.defense.gov/landing/comment.aspx
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1
The Department of Defense announced today that its National Resource Directory (NRD) Web site for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans, their families and those who support them, recently received a comprehensive system upgrade to provide users with easier access.
This Web site is a collaborative effort between the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs (VA) and Labor (DOL), and compiles federal, state, local and non-profit resources for wounded warriors, veterans, family members and caregivers in a single, searchable site.
“We worked closely with users of the National Resource Directory to find out how to make the information they need easier to find,” said Noel Koch, deputy under secretary of defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy. “The resulting re-design is easier to navigate and adds useful new features.”
The upgrade makes the latest wounded warrior and veteran issues easier to locate and follow. A new “bookmark and share” application helps visitors alert others to the content they’ve found most helpful through social bookmarking, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking tools. Visitors can also subscribe to Really Simple Syndication (RSS) or e-mail updates to receive new content, events and features based on their specific interests and needs.
“There are thousands of programs and benefits available to wounded warriors and their families, from healthcare and housing to education and employment assistance,” said Koch. “Our people must have an easy way to sift through it all to find the resources that are most helpful for their circumstances, especially while they’re dealing with what can be overwhelming challenges. That’s why we’ve partnered with the VA and Department of Labor to offer the National Resource Directory. And with the feedback mechanisms we’ve added in the re-design, we’ll be able to keep improving our service to our wounded warriors and families.”
The faster, enhanced search engine ranks information based on the popularity of the sources among other site users, so the most valuable resources rise to the top of the search results. Visitors can tailor searches for resources in specific states and territories, and apply filters to narrow their searches.
The re-designed site also highlights resources to assist homeless veterans. NRD users can also recommend additional resources. All resources are thoroughly vetted prior to inclusion on the National Resource Directory, and as always, content is updated and reviewed daily by a content management team which includes veterans and subject matter experts.
More information is available at http://www.NationalResourceDirectory.gov
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 24, 2009
One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that although the worst of the sectarian bloodshed and loss of American lives have ebbed in Iraq, U.S. service members continue to die in the 5-year war.
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