On a regular basis we hear of the military deaths in Iraq. Since the war began in Iraq on March 1, 2003, a total of 4,155 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq. Of that total, 3,376 were killed in combat action and the other 779 died from accidents, sickness, murders, suicide, etc. Add to that the 514 (366 killed in hostile action) who have died in Afghanistan, it brings the total to 4,669 and 3,742 in combat. That is a tremendous amount of young men and women to die in five years and six months. Tens of thousands of other lives were also affected by these deaths.
This article is not about politics or being for or against a candidate or being for or against the war. However, let's put these numbers in perspective. During the Clinton administration (1993 to 2001) there were 7,500 military deaths. For some strange reason we do not hear about these figures. 

During these five and a half years of the war there have been over 200,000 people killed in the United States in automobile accidents. (More than the population of Mobile, Alabama.) That figure means one person out of every 7,700 will be killed in an automobile accident every year! I pass by a dozen places every day on my way to work where people have been killed. No one seems overly concerned about these figures--we go right on driving. 

Alcohol is a factor in 41% of the traffic fatalities. So, over 82,000 Americans were killed on the highways during these five and a half years due to drunk or drinking drivers. For some strange reason we don't see any demonstrations demanding an end to drunk driving. These 82,000 deaths are not only tragic and senseless but, in my opinion, criminal.

Since I can't seem to find the murder rate for the years I want, lets take 2006 as an average. That would tell us that during the five and a half years of the war on terrorism, over 90,000 people have been murdered in the United States. During the summer there were 125 people murdered in one city, Chicago, twice the number killed in Iraq in the same time period. 

During five years (2000 to 2004) there were 3,444 people killed on bicycles in this country, which is more than our military killed in hostile action in Iraq.

    200,000 killed in automobile accidents
    90,000 murdered
    82,000 killed by drunk drivers
    3,444 killed on bicycles
    3,376 killed in hostile action in Iraq

Now let's get to the point of this article. The 200,000 people killed in automobile accidents during the last five and a half years is tragic and their deaths served no practical purpose. Their deaths were accidents--someone made a bad judgment, made a mistake, was distracted, did something stupid or perhaps in a few cases had mechanical failure. 

Neither did those 82,000 killed by drunk drivers serve any purpose. Some felt they could drink and still drive safely, but they couldn't. 

The 90,000 people murdered is a sad commentary on our country and served no real purpose.
How about those who have died in our military, especially those who perished in Iraq and Afghanistan? These deaths served a real purpose and have actual meaning. 

For some reason there have always been those who hate America and want to destroy us and our freedom. Had it not been for our military personnel who were willing to give their lives for us and for our freedoms, we would have no freedom today.

Because of them I have the freedom to sit in front of my computer and write this article. Because of them I (and you) have the freedom to express our opinions openly. Because of them I have the freedom to make my own choices, even if some are really stupid. Because of them we can attend the church of our choice without fear. Because of them I have the right to vote on who will govern me. Because of them we enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. Because of them we live in the greatest country in the world. Those deaths have not been in vain! Those deaths have had both real meaning and real purpose.

Every time I see a picture of a casket draped with an American flag, it makes a lump in my throat. There is a soldier, or a Marine, or an airman, or a sailor who died for me. There is someone who gave their life that I might continue to enjoy my freedom. I owe him (or her). I owe him big time. 

To the parents, spouses and children of those who have gone and not come back, may I express my gratitude for your sacrifice. The death of your loved one was tragic but it had both meaning and purpose. They did not die in vain.

Although this article is about those who have died in our war on terrorism, my utmost respect also goes to those who came back physically or mentally wounded. My gratitude goes to all of those serving or who have served in the military. I salute you.


by Raymond McAlister
September 2008