The Service and Sacrifice of the American Soldier

Article excerpt

This year, the nation and the Army commemorated one of the most significant dates both in military history and the history of mankind: the much anticipated invasion of "Hitler's Fortress Europe spearheaded by the airborne drops and landings of American and British troops on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. On that day six decades ago, American soldiers, joined by their allies, altered the course of history, saving Europe-and possibly the world-from fascism and tyranny. As with most things of great value, our success came at tremendous cost. During that conflict, 407,000 American service-men and women were killed and another 672,000 were wounded. The nation recently recognized their incredible contributions and those ) of the millions who served on the home front, at the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. It is appropriate that the depth of their sacrifice and the magnitude of their accomplishment earned the Americans of this era the well-deserved title of the "Greatest Generation."

Like the men and women of the Army who served their nation in response to the threats posed by the Axis Powers, those serving in today's Army are poised to play a similarly critical role in the course of modern human history. Once again, American soldiers have been called upon to fight tyranny and oppression. This time, the threat is not an easily recognizable enemy; the distinguishable uniforms, ominous symbols and trademarks of oppression are missing. The new threat, however, is just as sinister, and the imperative to defeat it is just as great. Unchecked, acts of terrorism and the threat of terrorism, whether committed abroad or on U.S. soil, threaten our culture, our prosperity and our way of life. The responsibility for fighting and defeating this evil scourge rests with our military services and our coalition allies, and much of the burden of this new struggle falls to the men and women serving in the U.S. Army.

We are now three years into the global war on terrorism, and we are making significant progress. Our soldiers, deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and hundreds of other locations around the world, are fighting and winning this crucial struggle against those who would impose their brand of intolerance and totalitarianism on free people by employing the tactics of fear and violence. American soldiers are not only providing the opportunity for freedom and democracy for the 46 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, but at the same time are protecting the American people by attacking the terrorists where they live-in their home nests and spawning grounds.

Let me highlight just a few of the accomplishments made possible by our soldiers. At the end of June, the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred control of the administration of Iraq to a new Iraqi leader and his ministers. This first step towards self-governance in a truly democratic environment was achieved because of two characteristics that epitomize the American soldier. First, their tremendous combat skills, resilience and courage in battle resulted in the quick defeat of Saddam Hussein's army. The initiative and innovation of our officers, sergeants and soldiers in this conflict remain critical to the military successes we have experienced in the past and continue to experience today. secondly, this first step was achieved because of the hard work, empathy and compassion of our soldiers in helping the citizens of Iraq to provide the stability necessary to build a democratic government. From training Iraqi soldiers to defend their country to helping rebuild the infrastructure of a nation plundered by its leader, soldiers are making a difference.

In October, Afghanistan will hold its first national elections since gaining independence in 1919. A short article in a respected newspaper noted:

After experiencing just about every form of government possible-monarchy, dictatorship, communism, warlordism and religious rule-the Afghan people are embracing democracy. …