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PD Editorial: Honoring vets for more than one holiday

  • Pvt. Chris Fernandez with the 235th Engineers hands out candy to Wyatt Rosenberg at the Petaluma Veterans Day Parade in 2011. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

When veterans parade through Petaluma this afternoon, their ranks will be heavy with men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The last troops left Iraq two years ago. After 12 years, the U.S. presence is winding to a close in Afghanistan.

A year from today, on Veterans Day in 2014, most if not all of the remaining troops will be gone from Afghanistan, ending a military campaign that started less than a month after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The wisdom of the global war on terror, as the post-9/11 invasions are officially classified, will be debated for decades to come.

So will the results.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban government that shielded al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was quickly toppled. Yet the Islamist fundamentalist group remains an insurgent threat to a corrupt central government.

Likewise in Iraq, a brutal dictator is gone, but assurances that democracy would flourish were, at best, naive.

Bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida and its offshoots are formidable enough that an intercepted message prompted the United States to close 19 embassies in Africa and the Middle East this summer.

However mixed the record of the wars, there isn't any doubt about America's debt to the men and women who fought them.

About 2.5 million American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, reservists and National Guardsmen have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both since 2001. Many deployed more than once. More than 6,600 have died.

More than half of these service members already have made the transition to veteran status, returning to civilian life to seek jobs, educations, homes and, not infrequently, health care related to their service. Too many of these veterans are being shortchanged.

• A recent state audit identified California among the lowest performing states in terms of jobs assistance for veterans. And, as a Sacramento Bee editorial pointed out, the Legislature hasn't acted to help veterans obtain college credit for the skills they learned in the service.

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