While many of us celebrated Memorial Day weekend in circumstances akin to normalcy, the Pentagon announced this past week that the United States and its NATO allies intend to be out of Afghanistan well ahead of President Joe Biden’s September 11th pledge. In addition to security and foreign policy issues at large, this withdrawal represents the end to the longest war in U.S. history, officially named Operation Enduring Freedom.
I suspect every one of us recalls our exact location on the morning of September 11, 2001, which within the month would usher in Operation Enduring Freedom. According to the Department of Defense, 2,312 U.S. troops have been killed and 20,666 injured in the conflict. Add to that the estimated 71,344 civilians (47,245 in Afghanistan and 24,099 in Pakistan) and 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan military and police casualties during the war; the numbers become difficult to truly comprehend.
Having never served in the military, I was in fact a college freshman on the morning of September 11th. I strongly opposed Operation Enduring Freedom at the time, and I vividly recall telling my college friends so. Moreover, as a Christian I do not believe war is ever objectively the best answer.
Nevertheless, it would be obtuse of me not to recognize the lives this war has affected and the debt I owe so many members of our society whom we, consciously or unconsciously, delegate this work to on our behalf. Whether or not I agreed with the conflict, I have benefited from the sacrifices made by countess military and civilian families since October 7, 2001, when the U.S. announced air strikes in Afghanistan. Some of the men and women who were not college freshman, or in a similarly privileged place that year, went to war and did not return. Marriages and families came apart during deployment, and our veterans continue to suffer from mental and physical ailments without sufficient support from the American public in return for their service. Moreover, the deep and lasting impact on Afghan and Pakistani lives and culture resulting from the occupation remain on the American conscience.
I work and pray each day to build a society where there are no wars, and where the deep and important work of reconciliation allows human relationships to resist devolving into violence, fear, or terrorism. Yet in the interim period, when there are legitimate threats to American freedom, we would be wise to thank our veterans as we work with full hearts, minds, and voices for the end to all conflict.
 News, A. B. C. "As US troops prepare to pull out, a look at the war in Afghanistan by the numbers". ABC News. Retrieved 26 May 2021.  Jazeera, Al. "Afghanistan: Visualizing the impact of 20 years of war". interactive.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 26 May 2021.