Commentary: No holiday for heroes

By COL. DENNIS LEWIS, UPI Military Analyst  |  Dec. 25, 2001 at 10:23 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- As we count our blessings let us remember the brave men and women who selflessly serve to protect us, and our way of life. These professionals include police, firefighters, and the members of our armed forces.

The troops in Afghanistan are a high-profile reminder that a couple hundred thousand of these patriots will not be at home enjoying the warmth of family this holiday season.

The Army alone has over 140,000 soldiers forward-stationed and deployed outside the United States on a daily basis. These troops perform duties in 120 countries in places we can't pronounce and at locations that aren't on most maps.

About 25,000 soldiers stand guard tonight in the mountains and cold of South Korea. Another 63,000 are forward deployed throughout Europe.

In Kuwait, a Brigade Task Force of 5,000 soldiers will be spending Christmas serving as a deterrent to Iraqi aggression. Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Hungary will be the holiday home for another 7,900 soldiers.

In the Sinai, 820 soldiers continue to serve as peacekeepers. In Honduras, 335 soldiers work at the Joint Task Force-Bravo. Other operations and exercises will require another 18,000 or so troopers.

These soldiers serve worldwide under a variety of conditions ranging from "U.S." typical living accommodations to fox holes, sleeping bags, and MREs (meals ready to eat). Most are unaccompanied, having left family behind in the United States.

These American patriots perform a wide range of missions: counterdrug, de-mining, MIA recovery, humanitarian assistance, foreign military training, counter-proliferation, embassy duty, and warfighting. The Army has well over 2,000 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and actively involved in the campaign.

For every service member deployed, another is preparing to deploy or recently back from an overseas tour. And their families, spouses, children, siblings and parents are a critical part of the Armed Forces team. They too serve by taking care of the home front during their servicemember's absence.

In total, more than 25 percent of the Army's active duty strength of 480,000 is forward stationed or deployed every day of the year. The rest of the forward-deployed forces are citizen soldiers of the Army Reserves and National Guard. The Army is truly one force.

Add to the Army's numbers the thousands of sailors, airmen and Marines who are serving throughout the globe: afloat, on foreign soil, or throughout the skies.

This enormous presence is the result of hundred of thousands of individual commitments and sacrifices of our fellow Americans. It is they who comprise the United States Armed Forces and provide the 24/7 contributions to U.S. security and worldwide stability that permits relative peace and transnational economic opportunities.

The men and women of our Armed Forces are America's treasures and certainly must be counted among her blessings and those of the entire free world.

During this holiday season clouded by the increased threat of terrorism at our door, let us recall the words of George Orwell, "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." May God continue to bless America with such stouthearted citizens.

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