To their credit, Americans have learned how to debate the nation’s wars without disrespecting its warriors. We recognize that the men and women who are defending us in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are doing so willingly, for love of country and liberty, and we are deeply proud of their selfless service in the face of the unique and unpredictable dangers of these long-running conflicts.
But that mostly unspoken gratitude doesn’t cover it each time news comes of an area casualty, such as Bel Aire native Army Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall.
One of six soldiers killed May 26 by an improvised explosive device in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, Bohall is the reason that flags in the state will be flown at half-staff Tuesday.
Bohall, 25, attended Sunrise Christian Academy and Wichita Heights High School before graduating from Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. The father of a 3-year-old, he had served two tours in Iraq and was on his second tour of Afghanistan.
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“I want people to remember this was a brave young man who went and served for his country, but he loved the people around him. He truly cared about other people,” Walter Rule, Bohall’s former soccer coach, told a San Antonio TV station.
He joins the other men with area ties who’ve been among the more than 6,000 casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, including five others in Afghanistan just since last summer — Army Staff Sgt. Eric Nettleton, Army Spc. Tom Moffitt, Army Sgt. Justin A. Officer, Army Capt. Jason T. McMahon and Staff Sgt. Vinson “Trinity” B. Adkinson III.
We can do something beyond keeping these warriors and their survivors in our prayers and hearts: Support the local effort to raise $300,000 to build a memorial in John S. Stevens Veterans Memorial Park to those who died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm. To help, go to www.ofm-ks.com, or mail donations to Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 782414, Wichita, KS 67278.
We also can try to better follow the counsel of Robert Gates, the Wichita native whose outstanding tenure as defense secretary ends this month. Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day,
Gates urged “all Americans to remember that, just as each and every day the troops now serving faithfully pursue their mission to protect us, so each and every day they deserve our recognition, our respect and our conscious gratitude. Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman wearing the uniform today enlisted or re-enlisted knowing they would serve in time of war.”
Quoting Thucydides, he added: “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
-- For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman