PD Editorial: Honoring vets for more than one holiday

  • Private Chris Fernandez with the 235th Engineer Company from Petaluma hands out candy to Wyatt Rosenberg, 4, at the Petaluma Veterans Day Parade on Friday, November 11, 2011.

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.

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