Forgetting Afghan war, until death brings it home

“Yes, it bothers me, but in a way, I understand. … It’s just been so long and everybody else is tired of hearing about it,” says Cynthia Holcomb of Columbus, Ohio, whose son, paratrooper Russell R. Bell, was killed Aug. 2 in Kandahar Province from wounds inflicted by an IED. Bell, father of a year-old son, was nearing the end of his fourth tour of duty.

“I think people would rather not focus on it because it’s painful, it’s hard to hear,” says Earl Copes, a second brother of the Virginia Marine killed last month. “When things are uncomfortable, it’s easier not to think about it.”

But losing a local soldier hammers home the war’s impact. Now people stop Angie Brown in the supermarket aisles to offer comfort. When she goes to the cemetery to visit her son’s grave, she often finds someone else there to pay respects. Will Copes says his family has received cards and letters of support from around the world. But he starts crying only when he begins to talk about his hometown, and the many, many people who may not have known his brother, but stopped their lives to stand along a curb and raise a flag in his honor.

“It’s just a small town,” he says. “But it’s good people.”

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AP writers Betsy Blaney, Kristin M. Hall, Larry O’Dell and Ed White contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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