Osama bin Laden's death vindicates weary soldiers fighting a war they feared their country would forget
The main road of Bagram Airfield is called Disney Drive. When an American is killed in Afghanistan, in the earliest hours of morning--long before sunrise--a siren calls every soldier to Disney. There, the men and women of the U.S. war machine stand in silence along the edge of the road, and salute a flag-draped coffin as it passes in darkness.
What many don't realize is that in a combat zone, there is no partisanship. Soldiers are neither hyper-patriotic, reciting the Pledge and waving flags, nor are they resentful pawns on a geopolitical chessboard. In Afghanistan, you're just there. And there is always work to be done, always a mission underway, always an inspection or briefing or training. Time does not fly and it does not feel temporary.
During the worst of it, you could feel the war slipping away. Not on the field of battle, but in the public's mind. Some nights, over illicit bottles of vodka purchased from friendly Afghans, one word often tumbled from lips of the American fighting man: "Korea." Ours, too, would be a forgotten war. The Taliban fell quickly, the Northern Alliance formed a transitional government, and Osama bin Laden was a ghost. Our job was to build a sustainable nation in a Mad Max wasteland, and we did our duty. But nation building isn't sexy, and whether or not we succeeded, it seemed, nobody would remember.