Friday, December 16, 2011

So This is Christmas....

Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”

So said the United States Secretary of Defense in a speech yesterday in Baghdad, Iraq, during the ceremony that formally marked the official end to the American military mission in Iraq, which mission lasted nine years. Nine years. Billions of dollars. Too many American lives.

I care not what one's opinion is on this war. I do not pretend to have an opinion better grounded than anyone else's so when I say I care not to hear yours, it is not because I lack respect for it. Rather it is because you are entitled to it - as I am to mine - and neither of us owes the other the courtesy of an explanation.

Today is not a day to preach of the politics of this conflict. At least not here. Not in this space. Today - here at least - is simply a day to say to all of the servicemen and servicewomen who served, to say, "Thank you." Thank you to all of your families who lived here while you were there, each of you hoping and praying for the day on which you would safely return and the night on which you would all sleep again under the same roof. "Thank you" to all of the service members whose lives were lost in this conflict and to offer sympathies and condolences to the loved ones whose prayers for your safe return went unanswered. "Thank you" to all of those who survived injuries that can fairly be called catastrophic and whose incredibly difficult post-war lives will continue to be aided and assisted by the good works of countless organizations such as the people at the Fallen Heroes Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.

For me, all I can competently say to any of you is, "Thank you." I have never walked a single step - much less a mile - in the shoes that each of you wears every day. If you tell me how this experience has impacted you, I cannot tell you that I understand. That would be a lie.

I suppose that even with my limited ability to comprehend I can say one thing in addition to simply saying thanks. "Welcome home"....

....War is over.

-AK

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