Monday, December 11, 2017
Opinion

Families to decide if war in Afghanistan was worth it

The letter is not as historically significant as those left behind in Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound.

It's simply an unadorned note from a departing U.S. soldier, now taped to a page of his father's prayer journal.

Love you daddio!

Happy Father's Day.

I'll see ya in a few months …

Cpl. Frank Gross was leaving his parents' Oldsmar home and preparing for his first combat tour when he left those words on the kitchen table last summer. Barely a month later, the 25-year-old Army gunner was killed by a roadside bomb after volunteering for a mission in the Khost province of Afghanistan.

We have grown accustomed, and perhaps numb, to stories such as this during the past decade. Probably more accustomed, and more numb, than we should.

At least it felt that way when President Barack Obama announced last week that the end of the war was finally in sight. The news seemed almost anticlimactic, as if its impact had been lessened by the number of days it took to get here.

They say it can take years to properly evaluate the impact of a war, but that is not necessarily true. Historians use their own set of criteria. Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters have another.

"I've had people ask me if my son died in vain, and I have to bite my tongue and try to be as gracious as I possibly can,'' Frank's father, Craig Gross, said Friday. "Today is 293 days since my son was killed. I count the days. I know the days, I know the hours, I know the minutes. Will I ever get over that? Probably not.

"So when people say to me, 'Did your son die in vain?' or 'I feel like your son died in vain,' or 'Boy, this war is a waste,' I say, 'No. No, no, no.'

"I really believe if my son felt this was an immoral war, or it wasn't right or it wasn't just, he would not have gone. He would not have joined.''

The Vietnam conflict taught this nation a lesson about the lack of respect for soldiers of an unpopular war.

We are more appreciative today. We have an understanding of the dedication, the risks, the sacrifices endured.

Yet America's tolerance for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended long before the policymakers made it official.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll last month showed just 30 percent of Americans believed the war in Afghanistan was still worth fighting. It's been more than two years since polls showed a majority of people in favor of the war.

This is one reason Don Carey can no longer stomach news about the war.

Almost eight years ago, his son was killed in Iraq, and Carey is disheartened by the political posturing and the debating over something that should mean more.

"If President Obama went to Afghanistan this week to make this all about himself, then that's wrong. And I would say that about the president, about John Boehner or anyone else,'' said Carey, whose son Barton Humlhanz was a corporal in the Marines. "This war isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It's about the soldiers. It's about their mission.

"You know how I would like this war to be remembered? I would be happy if there are people in Iraq whose lives are a little better because of the sacrifices our soldiers made. I would be happy if I knew they appreciated that we tried to make their world a little safer, a little more peaceful, a little easier.''

It's Saturday morning, four days after Obama's speech about the impending end of the war, and a small group of women have gathered at a breakfast cafe in Oldsmar.

They are a combination of Gold Star and Blue Star mothers who have met for several months. The Gold Star mothers have lost a son or daughter in a war. The Blue Star mothers have a child who is either serving or has served.

Donna Kistel's son Michael was in Iraq for 15 months and is now medically retired from the Army. He had a traumatic brain injury and suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder, along with shoulder, neck and arm injuries.

"He was there at a very rough time, and had some very bad things happen to him," Kistel said. "But he was trained to do a job, and he did that job. And for that, I am very proud.

"I would hope other people see it that way. This is an all-volunteer military. No matter how you feel about the war, these soldiers were there fighting for their country.''

The war is near its end, and the historical context will eventually follow. Were we victorious? Was it necessary? Was it worth the pain?

For some, the answers are already clear.

Comments

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17