After war, troops are the real heroes

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What is the real cost of the nine-year war in Iraq? Monetarily it is penned in the history books as $800 billion.
But the sacrifice of American troops during the Iraq war, which started March 19, 2003, has been much greater. There were 4,487 American servicemen and servicewoman and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis killed during the war. And, there’s another 30,000 troops wounded, many maimed for life.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said the cost was not in vain. President Obama hailed the war’s end as a historic moment noting “the U.S. left a sovereign state, a democratic government and an enduring partnership in place.”
Is Iraq — and the world — a better place without Saddam Hussein? The answer is yes.
As a nation, we paid a steep price for the freedom of the Iraqi people. In its wake are the physically and emotionally disabled men and women who served, many rotating in and out for three or four tours.
There are fathers and mothers reuniting with their children, some for the first time. It has been especially tough on family members who had to go on with their lives here at home. They are heroes as well, for keeping things together on the home front while their loved ones were away fighting.
We are glad the troops are home and feel strongly they should be honored for the sacrifices they made.
Sadly, it came very quietly and with little fanfare. News outlets carried stories, but there were no parades like those for sports teams. The possibility for such a parade still remains, but the fact that it is under consideration and not a certainty is a testament to the nation’s regard for the Iraqi engagement.
Officially, Obama had a commemoration ceremony at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Most welcome-homes have been familial affairs: hugs from loved ones at military posts, homemade banners and returning troops surprising their children.
Throngs of people gathered in New York City and Washington, D.C. after it was announced Osama bin Laden had been killed. There were no similar outbursts when the White House announced the last troops left Iraq.
We must remember one war has come to an end. But as a nation, we must not forget the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops still fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and, like in Iraq, training Afghan forces to eventually keep their own country safe.
Should the nation consider the end of this war a victory? We say no. The nation was not at war — the military was at war. And when the United States started the aggression by dropping the first bomb, there was no exit strategy in place.
There truly is no winner in this war. Both sides lost human lives and sacrificed much. And terrorists still maintain a foothold in the Middle East. Now the world must wait to see if the new Iraqi government can forge a new — democratic and free — nation.
Reprinted from the Citrus County Chronicle,
a Landmark Community Newspapers publication