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Public Statements

2000 Deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, while the House was out of session last week, the Nation suffered its 2,000th fatality in the conflict known as Operation Enduring Freedom, the overwhelming number of those deaths coming in Afghanistan. For more than 10 years now, we've been losing young, courageous servicemembers on a mission that isn't bolstering our national security, isn't supported by the American people, but is costing us billions of dollars every month. What a disaster and what a tragedy.

Mr. Speaker, from this Chamber, I regularly hear Members of the majority invoking morality in support of efforts to cut effective programs that help the most vulnerable members of our society. So where is their moral outrage and where is their budget axe when it comes to the most expensive government program imaginable that has killed 2,000 of our troops?

Two of those 2,000 come from my part of the country, the Sixth Congressional District of California. Army Specialist Christopher Gathercole and Army Sergeant Ryan Connolly, both of Santa Rosa, California, were killed less than a month apart in the year 2008.

We had others who were killed during the nearly 9 years that our troops were in Iraq, but 2,000 deaths doesn't even begin to tell the story of the human cost of this war. More than 15,000 Americans have come home wounded, many in ways that will alter their lives forever. Even those who returned with their bodies intact often suffer from devastating posttraumatic stress that may never go away. Postdeployment suicide has reached epidemic levels.

Nearly 2.5 million men and women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I actually can't say that I trust that the veterans health care system is prepared or will be prepared to deal with the huge demand that will be placed on the services in the coming years.

A recent report prepared by VA doctors outlines the unique and varied health care needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. In addition to traumatic brain injuries, depression, and substance abuse, there's chronic muscle pain, sleep disturbances, hypertension, and complications from environmental exposures. Many of our returning heroes have difficulty readjusting to civilian life, integrating once again into their families, their workplaces, and their communities.

We had better be willing as a Nation to write that check for their care as we were for the war that damaged them in the first place.

And it's critical, Mr. Speaker, that we remember the human cost is not just here in the United States. Two thousand Americans have died in nearly 11 years of war. Well, 3,000 Afghan civilians, many of them children, were killed last year alone for the cause of their so-called liberation.

It's not enough to acknowledge the casualties of this war, to memorialize the dead and pay tribute to their service. What we need is an immediate change of policy. To extend the war through 2014 is to sentence hundreds more servicemembers to their deaths, all for a policy that isn't achieving its stated objectives while strengthening the very terrorists and extremists that we're trying to defeat.

There's only one solution, Mr. Speaker. There's only one choice that will finally keep the death toll from climbing. That choice is bring our troops home. Bring them home now.

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