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Veterans should come home to the same country

POSTED: December 30, 2011 7:00 a.m.

2011 comes to a close with no U.S. combat troops in Iraq for the first time in two years shy of a decade. Veterans of that war return home — not to the celebrations of World War II or the bitterness and anger of Vietnam — but to a country more concerned with the economy than the official end of a war plagued by second thoughts.
As all veterans of all wars, the men and women who served in Iraq deserve our heartfelt appreciation.  Consider:
• The United States lost 4,500 service members, many of them young men and women in their 20s. Another 30,000 or so were wounded and many will continue to struggle with their injuries for years to come.
The number of Iraqis who died in the war was many times more, in the tens of thousands. The figure includes both civilian and military casualties.
• In terms of dollars and cents, the U.S. treasury took a direct hit of $800 billion.
Those are just the obvious costs of a war that at some point we seemed to take for granted as an accepted part of American life. We suspect more costs will come to light as we look at the war through the prism of time.
That said, we should not forget the reason our military exists. Our service members have the important job of protecting and defending our country. They also have a responsibility to protect and defend the ideals of freedom that serve as the foundation of this nation.  That’s a job we all share — military and civilian alike.
A terrible thing happened to the United States when terrorists attacked New York City and the Pentagon in 2001. It can be argued that our response was worse. We allowed ourselves to be talked into supporting a war in Iraq that had almost nothing to do with 9-11. And we became obsessed with the idea of building a security wall around ourselves to avoid another attack. We were willing to bargain away our freedoms to do it. That’s a bad trade, in just about anybody’s book.
Those who served in Iraq — and those who continue to serve in Afghanistan — deserve better. They deserve to come home to the country they left their families to defend.

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