Tragically, on Aug. 6, 30 U.S. service members — 22 of them belonging to the same elite unit that killed Osama bin Laden — were killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down during fighting in Afghanistan, allegedly by the Taliban. This was the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in the 10-year war.
During my two trips to Iraq, I had the honor of meeting many members of SEAL Team 6, and my brother Aaron is very close to many of them, as well. My wife, Gena, and I, along with my brother Aaron and his wife, Becki, send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of these brave warriors. There are no words to describe the loss these families are facing, and they will need our greatest support, not only now but also in the future.
Prior to those 30 additional U.S. deaths, CNSNews.com reported last week that at least 1,019 U.S. troops had died in and around Afghanistan since President Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009. What that means is at least 64 percent of U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan have occurred on Obama's watch.
A total of 1,618 deaths have occurred since Oct. 7, 2001, when U.S. forces were deployed to Afghanistan to expel the Taliban, who were harboring al-Qaida. In 2010, 497 American troops died in Afghanistan. Since January this year, 260 U.S. troops have been killed. In July alone, 32 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan. And already in August, 30 U.S. troops have sacrificed their lives. There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year.
Considering all these casualties of war, one seriously calls into question President Obama's abilities as commander in chief and this December 2009 promise he made to the nation: "Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."
Retired Gen. John Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, testified two weeks ago before the House Armed Services Committee, "The president's recent drawdown decision of 33,000 troops no later than September 2012 has increased risk significantly and threatens overall mission success."
This past week, myriad people on Facebook talked about how music star Amy Winehouse and yesteryear's Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison made front-page news when they suffered drug-induced deaths at age 27. But service members Andrew Found, Daniel Prior, Martin Lamb, Steven Dunn and Graham Shaw — all killed in action in Afghanistan — didn't make the front page when they died at 27.
What many people value brings me back to the wisdom of 19th-century Irish poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde, who said, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
Our sincerest gratitude is owed to those serving in the Middle East and Afghanistan, those who have left family and friends to serve abroad. And the real heroes are those who sacrifice everything for the cause of freedom — ours and others'. We also owe their families our greatest prayers.
With the anniversary of 9/11 on the horizon, we all need to double our efforts to extend our gratitude to them. And don't forget to thank military support groups, such as Give2TheTroops, which sends continual care packages to our service members abroad, and Blue Star Moms, which has posted banners in the hometowns of many of those who presently serve, for example, Gena's nephew Andrew Cox, who is on his second tour in Iraq.
No one likes war, least of all me. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was right; "war is hell." But Thomas Jefferson was also right; "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
My mother, my younger brother Aaron and I do understand the pain of the families that bear the special grief of losing a loved one on the battlefield. My brother Wieland paid the ultimate price in Vietnam on June 3, 1970. I never will forget when I received the news. I miss him still, all the time.
Wieland had a premonition when he was a teenager that he would not see his 28th year. A few months before his 27th birthday, he was killed. His death didn't make front-page news, either, but his life always will be celebrated in the forefront of our hearts and memories.
My brother fought a foreign war, as many of our service members do today. Despite the political chaos behind Vietnam, I refuse to believe that he died in vain. I also refuse to believe that the thousands of valiant warriors who have given their lives in the Middle East did, as well. Their sacrifices bring reality to Jesus' words: "Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends."
To all of our living service members, we salute you, pray for you and hope for your safe return. But if, by destiny, like my brother Wieland, you should breathe your last breath on the battlefield, rest assured that your sacrifice will not be in vain, for you will have purchased some aspect of someone's future freedom. Your legacy will continue, and you never will be forgotten. Fight the good fight; keep the faith; and press on for the prize!
Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.