It wasn’t a usual sight for the lawn of the Saline County Courthouse.
The long, paper sign stretched across one corner of the lawn on a sunny Sunday afternoon for only three hours.
But the Sunday was October 9, marking the 10th anniversary for the U.S. war in Afghanistan. “Ten years in Afghanistan is 10 years too many,” was the message of the sign.
Three people from the MVC community helped to secure the sign for the attention of anyone driving around the Marshall square. The Rev. Pam Sebastian, who is the chaplain at Missouri Valley College, and two students Amy Fizer and Loretta Williams, arrived to provide support for the effort.
Stakes, a hammer, and the panels of paper made the sign come together, but the greater ingredients, especially for the participants, was the hope for peace. That was also true for people who said they saw the sign when they drove by or stopped to visit.
Not a protest and not even a rally, the effort is a public expression for the desire for peace, Sebastian noted in the initial e-mail to the MVC community about it. Rules were followed, as the Chaplain’s Office received the permission of the county commission to place the sign on the courthouse lawn.
Fizer, a Math Education senior who is the secretary-treasurer of the campus group Students for Christ, said, “It’s not about the politics of the war one way or another. It’s about world peace. To promote peace.”
Williams, a senior double-majoring in Human Services and Recreation Administration, said she thought 10 years was just too long for the war and hopes it will be resolved soon. Williams, whose husband served in the Air Force and who knows what it is like for a military family, said she has a nephew serving in Afghanistan and a second cousin who’d served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Afghanistan War is America’s longest war, begun in 2001 as a reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which had allowed terrorist training camps inside the country, was removed swiftly by the American military response in December 2001, but the war effort then turned toward Iraq and a dictator there. The ongoing Afghanistan War became a secondary focus until recent years with some troop withdrawal from Iraq and a troop surge in December 2009 into Afghanistan. There are about 90,000 U.S. soldiers now in Afghanistan.
Concerning U.S. soldiers who have died in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, visit the Faces of the Fallen website by the Washington Post. It posts photos and some biographical information about the soldiers. It is at www.washingtonpost.com/facesofthefallen.
STATISTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WAR…
–U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan total more than 1,800 with the number at more than 4,465 in Iraq. Thousands of Afghan and Iraqi civilians have been killed. (The Washington Post)
–U.S. wounded number 14,342. Missouri soldier casualties total 47, with Missouri wounded numbering 233. Casualties of soldiers from other countries within the coalition number 955, with the United Kingdom having the largest amount. (icasualties.org)
–The cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will reach $1.29 trillion by the end of the fiscal year 2011. (Center for Defense Information)
–This year alone in just Afghanistan, the cost of the war will be $113 billion. (Tulane Law Professor Jonathan Turley)
–The Afghan National Army is looking to double its number of soldiers in service from 80,000 to 162,000 soldiers over the next five years. (Washington Post)
–In 2009, the number of private contractors in war became the highest in U.S. history. At the time, the private contractors made up 57 percent of the Pentagon’s personnel in Afghanistan. (Christian Science Monitor)
–Private contractors now number nearly the same as U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan, which includes 9,000 private security contractors. (Department of Defense)
–A part of the statement issued by Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans (IAVA), about the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan reads, “Ten years ago, we went to war in Afghanistan. As our country reflects on the past decade, it’s critical that we not only remember our fallen, but we also support the troops returning home everyday. For too many new veterans, the war doesn’t end when they come back—that’s when the battle really begins. The average unemployment rate for new veterans in 2011 so far is over 12 percent. Mental health injuries are being reported at unprecedented levels. And in 2010, we lost more service members to suicide than to combat each month…Nearly half of the post-9/11 combat vets polled in a recent Pew Research Center study think the government is failing to provide the services they need to transition effectively.” (IAVA)