A Windsor, Colorado soldier was on his third deployment when he and another soldier were killed by an Afghan ally. His mother said of her son, "There was
just something about him that made him able to bring a smile to anyone's face." A Kentwood, Michigan Navy Seal was killed when his Blackhawk helicopter
crashed during a mission. Ten others died as well in the crash. His grandfather told a reporter that the young man and his girlfriend were going to get
married before Christmas. "They were as happy as two kids in a candy store," he reported.
Most of us don't have to stay on alert. "The Marines are at war and America's at the mall," said the mother of Clay Hunt, a Marine who had served in Iraq
and Afghanistan and had watched his friends die. He was wounded, and after three years of agonizing over his experiences, he committed suicide.
CNN correspondent Jake Tapper's book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor puts a searing human face on the war in Afghanistan. It tells
the story of American soldiers in an unknown place fighting a battle with little tactical meaning. Tapper introduces readers to the soldiers there, young
men worrying about their situations, thinking about their families, planning for their futures. In October 2009 they repulsed a heavy attack by Taliban
forces. Of the 53 outnumbered soldiers, 8 were killed and 22 wounded. One of this band, Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha, received the Medal of Honor from
President Obama on February 11. Following brief applause, the nation went on about its business.
On February 13, President Obama announced in greater detail the plans for the drawing down of American troops in Afghanistan. With the Senate confirmation
vote delayed, he did not have the opportunity to involve Senator Hagel in the discussion leading to the decision. United States senators on the Armed
Services Committee did not avail themselves of the opportunity to discuss these options when they had it. None of his critics directly asked Hagel about
his view on this.
On February 27 Chuck Hagel was sworn in as Secretary of Defense. He immediately faced the problem of sequestration of funds that would impact the
Department in two days. But first he met with some of his new colleagues, both civilian and military. He visited the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial where he
"reflected a bit on what had happened that day." The new Secretary asked Army Sgt. 1st Class John Wirth, of Gordon, Nebraska, a veteran of the Iraq and
Afghan wars, to introduce him to the Pentagon gathering. Wirth said that Secretary Hagel "knows the very real cost of war."
That same day in Window Rock, Arizona, the flag of the Navajo Nation was at half staff. Marine Staff Sergeant Jonathan Davis had been killed in Helmand
Province, the only American death in Afghanistan in February. A Marine since 1997, Davis had two previous deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and had
already been awarded a Purple Heart. He was married with a son and hundreds turned out in Flagstaff and along the highway home to honor him when his body
was returned to the Navajo Nation. The Tribal Chairman announced that he was the 14th Navajo to die in Iraq or Afghanistan. On March 2 he was
buried at Kayenta. That same day Marines and Coalition troops who served with him held a memorial at Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazay in Afghanistan.
A week after assuming his new responsibilities, Secretary Hagel traveled to Afghanistan. He visited with the troops there and responded to President
Karzai's allegation that the United States was working with the Taliban. During the Hagel visit, the Taliban detonated an explosive at the defense ministry
in Kabul. On March 11 two American soldiers were killed by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform, and five others died in a helicopter crash.
There is still a war going on.