The day that the soldiers saluted their fallen comrade at Combat Outpost Sperwan Ghar, Sergeant Mark Schoonhoven died at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from wounds suffered in Afghanistan. Schoonhoven was from Plainwell, Michigan. His mother and oldest daughter had sat by his hospital bed for nearly six weeks hoping he would recover from the coma. His wife had returned to Michigan to look after the five children at home. He never recovered from the injuries suffered when insurgents detonated explosives as his vehicle passed. At his funeral his wife and his mother received folded flags and each of his children put a rose on his coffin. Other than local coverage, there was little attention paid to these deaths.
This quote was from a story written on March 25th, 2013 in an article on the website of http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/have-americans-forgotten-afghanistan/274331/ It caught my eye so I bookmarked it so I could come back and write about it later as it hit a nerve with me. See I was in Afghanistan in 2006-2007 when we commonly referred to it as the “New Forgotten War”. The Korean war was the original Forgotten War as it started not long after WWII and quite frankly America was burned out of that one and not ready to embark on another one. Afghanistan was an “item” from Oct. 2001-March 2003 (when the Iraq war kicked off). The Taliban was defeated quickly and decisively in late 2001-mid 2002 in Afghanistan and it had to retreat what it had and lick its wounds. So things got pretty quite for the most part after mid 2002 there. However with the embed-reporter Iraq War kicking off in 2003, all eyes went to it. 2006 was the year that the Taliban really started to come back in force in Afghanistan. You can see this in the blog posts I wrote on this blog during that time, or in books like Outlaw Platoon or Lions of Kandahar. Both of which were written about major battles and enemy actions in the year 2006. However, by 2006 it was all about Iraq and with it going to hell in a handbasket at that time and then the oncoming surge of 2007, that was where the media focused. Like all good sheep that only look and see what they are pointed and told to see, the American people for the large part of it, forgot we were in Afghanistan. But that all changed starting around 2009 as the lessons of years of war in Iraq started to be learned in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan was again in the first few minutes of every 6PM newscast so America now remembered and “cared” about the war there. That did not last more than a few years though.
Afghanistan did not become an issue during the fall presidential election campaigns, and the war seldom was a substantive issue in congressional races. Candidates scarcely discussed the war other than in passing references. In fact, they focused more on the putative next war in Iran. Ignoring the current war may have been politically or even morally derelict, but it was not of electoral consequence. Voters did not seem to consider war strategy as relevant to their election choices. Afghanistan did not figure in public opinion polls as a major issue and had not for some time. Nonetheless, we could hope that after the election political leaders would finally focus on the war in Afghanistan. If it did not seem relevant to swing-state campaign strategy, it surely was an important issue in developing national military strategy.
So now we are faced with the question, Does America Care? Are they burned out on war? Do they have more “important” things to worry about?
Quite honestly I don’t care what the answer is to those questions, because Americans SHOULD care. Our sons and daughters are still there, fighting, bleeding, and dying, not because they want to but because they have taken an oath and then intend to keep it. Our warfighters don’t get to pick and choose their wars, they go where they are lawfully told to go. As for burned out, unless they have been the ones over there living in plywood huts, getting the Afghan Crud, watching innocent people get maimed by a heartless enemy and most importantly trying to save their buddy’s life then they don’t know what “BURNED OUT” means or how they get it. As for the last question, I guess it depends on what you (or they) define as “important”. If it is Honey Boo-Boo and the firing of American Idol judges then I feel sorrow for them, because they have a very shallow and empty life.