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Editorial: Remember the 13 service members who gave their life in Afghanistan

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, we wonder how future historians will remember this time. What will they write? What will high school students learn in their history classes about America on this anniversary?

Many would agree that our national politics are ugly. People at public meetings shout abuse at officials over mask policies, even after more than 630,000 have already died from the coronavirus, and elected federal officials continue to make excuses for all the wrongs of the previous administration and shout “impeach him” at the current president’s first serious blunder.

As we honor this anniversary, all the vitriol should be put aside and the national conversation should focus on the men and women who serve and have served this country in a long-running war that is now coming to a horrific end. 

We don’t have compulsory national military service in the U.S., only volunteers. 

We published a letter earlier this month from Charles Sanders, commander of American Legion Post 803 in Southold, about events in Afghanistan. In it, he urged that we not argue about who is to blame, and instead remember the sacrifices made by our servicemen and -women — a tiny portion of the population.

In recent years, we have published a list of every name engraved on the Civil War memorial outside the Southold Legion Hall. We did this because a name means something; it’s not abstract. Each one represents a person who put his or her life on the line for a cause, and should not be forgotten.

It’s not “2,977 men and women died in the 9/11 terror attacks.” Every one of them had a name. On that late summer morning thousands of people lost someone they loved and believed they could never live without. An additional 6,000 were injured, and deaths from diseases directly tied to the post-9/11 response at ground zero continue.

As of April 2, 2,448 U.S. service members had been killed in Afghanistan, in an undeclared war that was debt-financed at a cost of approximately $1 trillion, with interest on that debt set to top $6 trillion in coming years. Last week, 13 more service members died at the Kabul airport as they worked to remove Americans and our Afghan allies from harm’s way.

You may have seen a list of those 13, or seen the photo of Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee cradling an Afghan baby in her arms. You may have read that U.S. and NATO service members dug wells in remote villages so residences could have fresh water and built schools for girls in a country where girls mean absolutely nothing.

If you haven’t seen the 13 names, here they are.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

• Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, Calif.

• Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah

• Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.

• Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

• Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb.

• Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.

• Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.

• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Mo.

• Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Some of these brave men and women were only babies on 9/11, others just toddlers. In their honor, maybe create a makeshift memorial and post this list on a bulletin board in your kitchen. Hopefully, as time goes on, we as a country will remain mindful that, as Winston Churchill said of an earlier group of heroes, “Never … was so much owed by so many to so few.”