“My View” from the June 14, 2012, edition of “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”
A grim statistic is making headlines today: The report of the 2,000th U.S. service death in Operation Enduring Freedom — the war that began after 9/11, the so-called war on terror.
One thousand, eight hundred and eighty-four of those casualties have occurred in Afghanistan — others in Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere. But the number alone sounds too antiseptic: 2,000.
Think instead of an entire high school gym filled with cheering students. That is how many soldiers we have lost in service.
Now think of their families.
The cost of war is impossible to grasp and yet it appears in so many ways. We spoke on this show just days ago of the new scourge of military suicides.
Just in this year through June 3, there were 154 confirmed military suicides, compared to 127 troops killed in the Afghan war during the same stretch of time. More deaths from suicide than in the field of combat. This silent scourge is responsible for about 20 percent of all active duty military deaths.
So how do we begin to understand the pressures that are sending these numbers up so dramatically?
According to the experts we spoke to, it might be the consequence of multiple tours of duty in a war without clear definition or end point. It might be that the changing nature of warfare itself has increased the emotional stress of being in combat. So far, nobody really knows.
When asked about the issue on Wednesday by Sen. Patty Murray, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed appropriate concern, and said he had asked for a review across all services to see what could be learned.
The trauma and emotional cost of war continues to be borne by our soldiers when they return. And the threshold of 2,000 deaths and mounting suicides needs to reinforce what we already know but too often forget: It is far too easy to march down the path to combat while ignoring or forgetting the price paid by those who serve.
It’s our duty to be neither ignorant, nor forgetful in this regard.
That’s “My View.”