Independence Day, as an ingrained term, connotes romanticism amongst many – the romanticism of ball and powder, of musket and cannon, of firing lines and the glory of combat. Love or hate the politics of our nation's current military engagements, what freedom is or is not matters most on the 4th of July. Politics can be set aside for a single day and we can all bask in the wonder of our nation's founding document.
The 4th is not Veteran's Day – let's be clear. It's not a time to honor the sacrifices of the young, but rather to celebrate the concept of freedom. That concept, however, were it not for the sacrifices of our uniformed young – both past and present – would be nothing more than a concept.
Tomorrow, when we bite into something and taste charred smoke, we should be forced to remember that there are those among us who would probably rather not hear the pop of fireworks in the background. When the alcohol, if you choose to indulge, passes your blood-brain barrier and that initial moment of well-being comes upon you, remember that your moment of fellowship and family was made possible by the death of many that resulted in our Declaration of Independence.
Today, we have youngsters returning stateside that are frightened of piles of trash. The purr of a diesel engine can initiate a traumatic memory. Combat has evolved, but people still bleed. Our military may no longer be fighting for our independence, but the lifestyles we enjoy, in many cases, can be tied to the mangled and injured.
Try these numbers on for size, Boonville. Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to icasualties.org, an independent and non-partisan group, lists 4,486 American combat-related deaths since 2003. A handful of the deaths were from non-hostile activity. The number is current and up-to-date but negates the inclusion of other fatalities deemed a part of the multi-national coalition. Wounded – not killed in action – topped 32,223 as of Nov. 2011. Eighty-nine of the passed were from Missouri. They died on the other side of the world in places with names like Multaka, Adhamiya, Abu Sayda, Sinsil and Balad.
Afghanistan's Operation Enduring Freedom, clearly the most combat-prone of the two regions for the moment, has seen 2,028 fatalities. More than 15,000 post high-schoolers and young family men and women have been wounded. Casualties from Missouri totaled 233 – 50 of those resulted in death. Those passed moved on in places like Khowst, Kapisa and Ghazni.
Remember these facts on our nation's Independence Day.