POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2011
As we go about our daily lives, walking down the street, going to work, or paddling out for a surf, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are a country at war. Bullets flying in Afghanistan just seem so far away from our peaceful lives in beautiful Hawaii.
However, in Afghanistan alone we still have close to 100,000 troops, placing their lives in harm's way every single day.
They are our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, who serve courageously, never knowing if each day will be their last. They have left behind anxious parents, overwhelmed spouses and confused children — all wondering every night before they go to sleep, "When will my loved one come home?" This is their reality.
While we may be far removed from the grit and harshness of combat, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of "out of sight, out of mind." Our troops and veterans deserve so much more.
For more than 200 years, men and women from all walks of life, whether called soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, have answered our nation's call to serve in times of war and peace, serving in locations around the world.
Whether providing humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters or conducting direct military operations against hostile forces, they salute the flag and serve proudly in the defense of our nation.
So how can we best honor our veterans?
By doing everything we can as citizens of this great democracy to make sure that our troops are not sent into or kept in harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary for our national security.
This brings me to Afghanistan. We have lost far too many of our loved ones, heroes like Staff Sgt. Shane Vickers of Maui or 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom of Oahu, in an Afghanistan war that has stretched on for more than 10 long years. More than 1,700 others have lost their lives, and thousands more have been seriously wounded.
These brave souls made it possible to achieve our original objective of entering Afghanistan, by decimating al-Qaeda in that country, taking out Osama bin Laden, and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to pursue democracy. Now, the best way we can honor them is to immediately bring our troops home from Afghanistan as quickly and safely as possible. We cannot afford to risk any more lives on a fight that no longer has a clear goal.
Those veterans who have returned home continue to inspire all of us, as their service to our country never ends. Everywhere you turn, you will find a veteran working in some way to continue selfless service to our community.
As a society, we are increasingly frustrated that those in positions of power do not reflect the same selfless sacrifice that is present in our veterans.
We dangerously have so-called leaders who are not motivated by a desire to put service before self, but who are instead stuck in a cycle of greed and selfish ambition.
Yet, we have it in our power to effect change and to make a difference.
On this Veterans Day, let's take a moment to reflect on the hope and sacrifice that our veterans' lives inspire.
Think about how we can apply this value of selfless service in our own lives and in our own way.
Take action that will directly affect our current generation of veterans, and call on President Barack Obama and our congressional delegation to bring our troops home from Afghanistan into the loving embrace of their families.