The announcement always starts this way, “DOD Identifies …” It is then followed by the name of the Military Service our latest warrior to die in Afghanistan served in.
That is how the death of our 2,000th soldier in Afghanistan was officially announced to the nation.
DOD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cpl. Taylor J. Baune, 21, of Andover, Minn., died June 13 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
It is up to others to do the counting.
It is up to others to tell us what kind of a beautiful young man or young woman our latest casualty was. What High School he or she attended. What sports he or she played. What his or her dreams were.
It is up to others to tell us how much the most recent casualty was loved — how much he or she will be missed.
When I wrote about our 2,000th casualty in Afghanistan, a reader rightly pointed out how relatively few casualties we have suffered in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He mentioned, for example, that in three consecutive years during the Vietnam War we lost more than 11,000 of our finest in each of those years.
Of course the reader is technically correct. Our casualties during more than 10 years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan still do not add up to the number of casualties during any one of those three years in Vietnam.
And of course the reader is not trying to trivialize the casualties in our two most recent wars.
I awkwardly tried to explain that each war, each battle, each casualty must be viewed — and mourned — separately and individually, within the context of the times and circumstances we live in and in the context of the reasons why we are fighting the wars and the battles our young men and women die in.
I recently read the book, To Conquer Hell. It is a gripping account of the Meuse-Argonne battle, the bloodiest and costliest battle in our history. It is the story of how, in a single battle during World War I, we lost 26,000 of our Doughboys and nearly 100,000 of them were wounded.
In World War II, almost 300,000 American GIs gave their lives.
If one were to focus strictly on figures, the number of casualties we have suffered in individual Iraq-Afghanistan battles or in the course of both wars would almost be statistically insignificant when compared to the Meuse-Argonne battle or to World War II.
But that is not how we should look at our war casualties. Because once we start comparing statistics, we are relegating war, deaths and suffering to … statistics.
We are all guilty of this. When I wrote about our 2,000th death in Afghanistan I did exactly that.
But we can and should remember that behind each incremental number — the 2001st, the 2002nd, the 2003rd casualty in Afghanistan — there is a human being and a family who has just lost him or her forever.
Another reader tried to recall the expression for when a war “is largely over, and many of those who were ready to give their lives in battle now get the feeling that they don’t want to be the last guys to die in a war that’s already been largely concluded.”
Maybe the reader had some other word or expression in mind, but John Kerry’s words about the Vietnam War came immediately to mind: “How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die…”
With that in mind, here are the men we have lost since our 2,000th tragic death in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, just in the last six days:
• Sgt. Joseph M. Lilly, 25, of Flint, Mich., died June 14, in Panjwa’l, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 18th Engineer Company, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
• Sgt. Nicholas C. Fredsti, 30, of San Diego, Calif., died June 15, in Spedar, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
• Pfc. Jarrod A. Lallier, 20, of Spokane, Wash., died June 18, in Zharay, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire and grenades. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
“Who will be the 3,000th American soldier to die in the Afghanistan War?” I pray we will never see that “milestone.” I pray that day will never come.
Photo: Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North, gazes upon American flags at Voinovich Park in Cleveland, June 12, 2012. The flags honor Ohio service members during Marine Week Cleveland. Courtesy DOD