- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2014


There is no single memorial to our members of U.S. forces who were killed serving in our war on terror.

The ongoing campaign, sparked by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is seemingly wrapping up, as our troop withdrawals are scheduled to wrap up in Afghanistan by year’s end.

Where you stood or stand on the war is always worthy of debate.

Whether our dead troops are worthy of being honored in the nation’s capital is not — and that is precisely where this discussion turns today.

Jacqueline Klimas reported Monday in The Washington Times that the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is still pushing for official Washington to make the necessary moves.

There are a few technical issues that must first be dealt with.

“One of the things that’s very difficult is, because these aren’t technically declared wars — they’re operations of the global war on terror — it’s difficult to fit the statutes,” Lauren Augustine, a member of the veterans organization’s legislative team, told Ms. Klimas. “We’ve been in the wars for over a decade, but it’s particularly difficult to have that closing date.”

That this is a midterm election year, the politics of that particular situation are unlikely to change, but that certainly doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and walk away.

The issue is something called the Commemorative Works Act of 1997, which stipulates, among other things, that a war memorial can’t be authorized until at least 10 years after that war officially ends.

Of course, Congress and the White House could change the 10-year rule or simply exempt the war in Iraq and Afghanistan once our troops leave.

President Obama is foreseeing an end to long prison “unfair” sentences for inmates involved with drugs. Surely, our commander-in-chief would be willing to nudge Capitol Hill lawmakers to change a law that would benefit the men and women in our armed services. And if that’s not politically expedient, he can urge Justice, Defense and Interior Department officials, along with veterans officials to find a loophole in the current law or turn their probing eyes toward constituting an executive order — again, to honor members of our armed forces.

Remember to never forget.

Based at Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif., Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters was only 25 years old when, on Jan. 9, 2002, fewer that four months following 9/11, her life was cut down in Pakistan during a refueling tanker crash. She was the first woman Marine killed in a hostile fire zone and the first female service member to be killed in the war.

Other members of her “Raiders” refueling squad were killed, too: Capt. Matthew W. Bancroft, of California; Capt. Daniel G. McCollum, of South Carolina; Gunnery Sgt. Stephen L. Bryson, of Alabama; Staff Sgt. Scott N. Germosen, of New York; Sgt. Nathan P. Hays, of Washington; and Lance Cpl. Bryan P. Bertrand, of Oregon.

Also, remember to never forget Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who didn’t waiver.

After becoming a member of the Marine reserves while attending Auburn University in his native Alabama, Spann rose to captain. He joined the CIA’s special operations forces after 9/11 and was sent to Afghanistan. There he helped interrogate American enemy combatant John Walker Lindh, and Spann was killed Nov. 25, 2001, during a Taliban prison uprising.

I named but a few U.S. service members who paid the ultimate post-9/11 sacrifice.

There are so many more.

Those who died on foreign soil and those considered casualties.

Those who died on American soil and those who suffered casualties.

Those who were killed and injured during the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Warriors like Pat Tillman, who played in the NFL.

Those who were killed Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, a terror attack than constantly reminds us that the war may be “never-ending.”

Remember to never forget.

Let us not treat the men and women on the front lines and sidelines of the war on terror as we did those in the Vietnam War.

You can hate the war and honor the warriors.

Figure out a way to erect a monument to the warriors fighting the war on terror.

That is the best way to remember to never forget.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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