Editorial: Honor their sacrifices

Published 8:58 am Friday, July 24, 2009

Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Michael Jackson. Walter Cronkite. Daniel Drevnick. James Wertish. Carlos Wilcox. Ben Kopp. Thomas Gramith.

Most Minnesotans probably recognize the first set of names — famous Americans who have died this summer.

But what about the second set?

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If you don’t know, they are five Minnesota soldiers who in the past few weeks have died in service to their country.

Drevnick, Wertish and Wilcox were killed in a missile attack in Iraq. All three National Guard specialists were members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. Kopp died Saturday of wounds received July 10 in Afghanistan. Gramith was killed when his fighter jet crashed last weekend.

Their deaths are a sad and stark reminder to all Americans that this nation remains engaged in two very dangerous and deadly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And in our book, their immensely heroic contributions far outweigh what any celebrity has done, in death or in life.

Sadly, though, the deaths of these soldiers hold a slim chance (if even that) of capturing the attention of America and focusing it on Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s that national attention that will spark domestic debate and discussions about what it will take to get America’s best and bravest home.

Unless a family member or friend is stationed on those front lines, most Americans remain content to overlook the deaths of soldiers such as these five Minnesotans.

Well, amid increasing violence in Afghanistan and the fact that more than 1,000 Minnesotans remain stationed in Iraq well into 2010, we ask people to do more than just let these five deaths make the headlines for one news cycle. Honor their memories by focusing more of your attention on Iraq and Afghanistan. Learn what elected officials are doing to help these soldiers succeed so they can come home safely. Even contact entities like the Minnesota National Guard to see what you can do to help.

Having five Minnesotans die in war zones within in one month is as shocking as it is sad. We honor their sacrifices. We also urge you to act so that more soldiers don’t face a similar fate.

—St. Cloud Times, July 22