A simple gesture of thanks

Published 5:18 pm Saturday, July 4, 2009

As the war in Afghanistan nears its eighth anniversary, many Americans have succumbed to the simple habit of human nature that causes us to forget — or at least ignore — those things that are far removed from us in place and time. We may completely understand and agree with the reasons that American troops continue to fight in that distant land, but the tendency, especially in light of casualties that are low on a historical scale, is to push thoughts of the conflict to the rear of our collective consciousness.

The same is true to a lesser extent in Iraq, where U.S. troops have a somewhat higher profile, in large part because of that war’s lack of popular support amongst a large segment of American society, especially in the mainstream media, which for years now has assured that its consumers get a daily dose of bad news from the Middle East, despite — once again — the historically low numbers of American casualties.

For the soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors who continue to fight battles in those two remote lands, however, the dangers and the rigors of war are quite real, despite the low rates of death and injury. For them, the Fourth of July wasn’t celebrated with fireworks and cookouts, but with simple thanksgiving for living through another day. For them, there were no family picnics or beach outings with loved ones, only the memories of good times back at home and, perhaps, a longing for a time in the future when those times will be restored.

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Some folks back in the USA, however, understand the quiet loneliness and pain of that military life and have worked hard to make sure that our men- and women-at-arms overseas know that most Americans remember them and appreciate their service to this nation. One good example is the A Million Thanks Foundation, for which Suffolk-area residents made and signed more than 2,000 cards of thanks that will be sent to the troops.

It was a simple gesture, but it was a powerful one in its message: We do remember, and we do care; come back home safely. There’s hardly a better way to have celebrated Independence Day.