Our sacrifices are not made in vain

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gregory Reese
  • 51st Security Forces Squadron commander
Staff Sgt. Travis L Griffin, a security force Airman from the 377th Security Forces Squadron, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, was killed by an improvised explosive device in one of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods April 3.

Sergeant Griffin was serving a one-year deployment training the Iraqi police. His goals were to make Iraq a safer place, and ensure the sacrifices made by thousands of military members in Iraq were not made in vain; to help create a free and democratic nation in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's rule of oppression.

He believed in these goals, and he believed in his brothers and sisters assigned to his squad.

No one who deploys to Operations Iraqi or Enduring Freedom wants to consider that lives lost, injuries suffered, or their personal sacrifices are in vain. We want to see the people of Iraq and Afghanistan emerge from this struggle as a free and prosperous nation.

We hope, years from now, the sacrifices of our fellow Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines will have contributed to helping these two countries join the company of nations such as Korea, Japan and Germany, which have emerged from years of war and struggle to become prosperous and free -- thanks to the sacrifices and courage of American servicemembers.

In the meantime, it is hard to envision this end state, and even more confusing and frustrating to witness the debate in America over our commitment to the war we have seen claim so many lives.

Those of us who have worked with the Iraqi people know they are good, hard-working people, tormented by insurgents and terrorists with an agenda not aimed at bettering Iraq and its citizens -- only the expansion of their group's power and influence.

Unfortunately, these long-suffering Iraqis have known nothing but a life of oppression and terror.

This hit home for me personally when, in 2005, my unit was performing a search in a farming village near LSA Anaconda.

I noticed the young children acted just like my own children, playful and full of life; yet their parents, some who were younger than me, looked like their lives were nothing but sorrow and fear. Even the way they stood and talked showed they knew nothing of freedom or self-respect.

They were good people, simple farmers trying to make their way in the world and raise their children. They desperately wanted a more prosperous Iraq, full of opportunities for their children, but they had trouble believing it was possible.

The men and women of America's military are sacrificing their lives, blood and sweat every day in Iraq, hoping to one day bring a new reality to its people.

To Sergeant Griffin's wife and son, the Iraq war will never be worth what they have lost.

However, as his comrades in arms, we can not let his sacrifice or those of the thousands of others who served and died in Iraq be in vain. We owe it to those who have already paid a heavy price to keep working with all of our skill and courage to make a difference.

Even if your contribution seems to be a small one, it makes a difference.

Recently, Gen. David Patraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said the progress in Iraq is "fragile but reversible."

Let's make sure our next opportunity to make a difference in the heart of even one Iraqi or Afghani is taken.

Let's also make sure the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters go toward making the world a better and more peaceful place for our children, as well as the sons and daughters of Iraq.