Editorial: Take care of those who fought

Apr. 07, 2014 @ 11:38 PM

Can the end really be in sight? Will red, white and blue finally leave Afghanistan?

Saturday’s presidential election in the war-torn country was a critical part of the process. Results still are unknown, but we’ll see the new shape and face of the country emerge.

Since the Taliban was ousted in the wake of 9/11 attacks in the United States, Afghanistan has known just one leader. Term limits (two) are forcing a change, and President Hamid Karzai will be leaving office.

The actions of many Afghans are encouraging for those wanting the U.S. armed forces to return home. The Taliban threatened harm to those turning out to vote on Saturday. Rain was also a possible deterrent to voter turnout — as it often is in the United States.

But reports indicate millions wanted to be heard and cast votes. They crowded the courtyard polling sites as well as schools.

The U.S. has led the coalition’s presence for 13 long years. Reunions of families here in the States have become quite common. They’re always emotional. And troops almost always offer, “just doing the job” and “ready to go again if needed” when asked about deployments.

Our country may soon find its way out, depending on one’s definition. Officially, combat operations are to end on Dec. 31.

Afterward, NATO and allied nations are expected to be represented by 8,000 to 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, advising and assisting Afghan forces. The U.S. contingent would be special operations forces. Again, it is all tentative.

Even if everything goes to plan — Afghanistan moving forward with a new administration in place and a decrease in hostilities allowing U.S. troops to withdraw — we’re still facing a new element in our country. As we’ve said before, we have a new kind of veteran. And our country’s system in place to help veterans get back into a regular way of life will see significant influx of those seeking help.

It goes beyond the federal government and the branches of the military.

Our communities must be up to the challenge. We must do more than wave our flags and say “thank you for your service.”

The pain of 9/11 we all felt has been, in part, taken care of by our troops. It is time to take care of them.