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Mourning 2,000th Death of Operation Enduring Freedom

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, the 2,000th U.S. military servicemember was killed in Operation Enduring Freedom. I send my deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of each individual who has been killed since this war began more than a decade ago. Those losses are a cause for sadness beyond what I can adequately convey in my words. Having just celebrated Father's Day with my daughters and son, I reflect on the fact that each fallen soldier was the child of some parent. Many were husbands and wives, and many were parents themselves.

We are a Nation at war. Yet the burden of this war has been primarily borne by a very few, by our military servicemembers and their families. Less than 1 percent of the United States population is in the armed services. Many Americans were not aware of last week's tragic milestone, or perhaps they may have glanced at the fatality count in their local paper and then they went about their daily events. This is a war that, for many, goes on in the background while most Americans carry on their daily lives.

It's imperative that we stop and think deeply about the human cost of this war. We must read the names of those who have been killed, look at their pictures, and imagine the grief of those who have been left behind. We must also think about those who have been wounded. Every day outside this Chamber, we see yet one more military man or woman who has lost a limb, who has been harmed. They are in our military hospitals now, their futures uncertain. We must think about those servicemembers whose lives have been so shattered by the experience of war that they cannot continue living. More servicemembers took their lives in this year than were killed in combat in Afghanistan. Only when we feel those losses can we fully comprehend the cost of this war.

Recently, this House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act that I opposed but the majority pushed forward, a bill that has no meaningful timeline for ending combat operations and bringing our troops home, no concrete plans for transitioning full responsibility for Afghanistan security to Afghan forces. Most Republican supporters of the National Defense Authorization Act would slow down the withdrawal of our troops. They would have American troops continue to fight against a domestic insurgency in Afghanistan, and they would have American troops fighting for the corrupt Karzai government.

As Members of Congress, we're responsible for authorizing the funds that sustain this war. If we believe this war should continue, we should say that this war is absolutely essential to our Nation's security. This war is not.

Can we look into the eyes of the mother or father of a serviceman who has been killed and say your child died for a mission that's absolutely essential to our Nation's security? I can't do that, and I believe most of us cannot. I believe it is time for the war in Afghanistan to come to an end. Our troops and their families have given enough. We should welcome them home as heroes, and we should ensure that they receive the support and care that is due when they return.

We sent our brave servicemen and -women to Afghanistan to eliminate international terrorist organizations that threaten the United States. As President Obama said last month, our goal is to destroy al Qaeda. Our troops have successfully executed this mission with phenomenal dedication and capacity. We have virtually eliminated al Qaeda from Afghanistan. No expert says that there's more than 100 there, and they have no meaningful operation. They have demonstrated that we can take terrorists out wherever they are in this world. We have captured and killed most all of al Qaeda's top commanders. One year ago, we celebrated the historic moment when Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind, was killed. He met his just end.

The cost of this war in blood and treasure has been staggering. Even those who have not given their lives have given of their lives. It's time for this war to end. The loyalty and dedication of our servicemembers, our most sacred resource, must be conserved. We must not squander it. End this war now.

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, the 2,000th U.S. military service member was killed in Operation Enduring Freedom. I send my deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of each of the individuals who have been killed since we began this war in Afghanistan more than a decade ago. These losses are a cause for sadness beyond what I can adequately convey in words. Having just celebrating Father's day with my daughters and son, I reflect on the fact that each fallen soldier was the child of some parent. Many were husbands and wives, and many were parents themselves.

We are a nation at war. Yet the burden of this war has been primarily borne by the few--by our military servicemembers and their families. Less than 1% of the U.S. population serves in the armed forces. Many Americans were not aware of last week's tragic milestone, or perhaps glanced at the fatality count in their local paper and continued with their day. This is a war that, for many, goes on in the background while they carry on with their daily lives.

It is imperative that we stop and think deeply about the human costs of this war. We must read the names of those who have been killed, look at their pictures, and imagine the grief of those they left behind. We must think also about those who have been wounded, who are right now in our military hospitals with uncertain futures. Every day outside this Chamber, we see yet one more soldier who has lost a limb. And we must think about those servicemembers whose lives were so shattered by the experiences of war that they could not continue living. More servicemembers took their own lives this year than were killed in combat in Afghanistan. Only when we feel these losses can we fully comprehend the costs of this war.

Recently, this House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision inserted by the majority that would continue this war indefinitely. I opposed this bill. This majority bill has no meaningful timeline for ending combat operations and bringing our troops home. It has not concrete plans for quickly transitioning full responsibility for Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces. The majority has pushed to slow down the withdrawal of U.S. forces. They would have American troops continue fighting against a domestic insurgency in Afghanistan and striving to defeat those armed factions that threaten the corrupt Karzai government.

As Members of Congress, we are responsible for authorizing the funds that would sustain this war. If we believe this war should continue, we affirm that this war is essential to our national security. It is not. We should be able to look into the eyes of a mother or father of a service member has been killed and say, ``Your child died in a war that is absolutely necessary to keep our country safe.'' I cannot do that, and I believe most of us cannot. It is time for the war in Afghanistan to come to an end. Our troops and their families have given enough. We should welcome them back as heroes and ensure that they receive the support and care that is their due when they return.

We sent our brave service men and women to Afghanistan to eliminate those international terrorist organizations that threatened the United States. As President Obama stated very clearly last month, ``Our goal is to destroy Al Qaeda.'' Our troops have successfully executed this mission with phenomenal dedication and capacity. They have virtually eliminated Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, as our intelligence experts report that fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives remain in the country. They have demolished terrorist training camps, and captured or killed most of Al Qaeda's top commanders. One year ago we all celebrated the historic moment when Osama Bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind who bears responsibility for the death of thousands of innocent American civilians, met his just end.

The costs of this war, in blood and treasure, have been staggering. Even those who have not given their lives have given of their lives, missing time with loved ones at home while they serve our country abroad. The loyalty and dedication of our military servicemembers is America's most sacred resource, and we must not squander it. They have achieved the core national security objectives for which they were sent to Afghanistan. It is now time for our troops to come home to their families.


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