Veterans Day discussion thread

Best wishes to the veterans in the Bleeding Heartland community and others for whom today is especially meaningful.

Last year I posted Veterans Day links here and mentioned a friend who had recently come home from Iraq. His brother was deployed in Afghanistan at the time and came home safely this year. He is the focus of Rekha Basu's column in today's Des Moines Register. I've posted some excerpts after the jump.

Todd Dorman wrote here about the origins of Armistice Day and the first Iowans who died in World War I. In the UK, where the "Great War" had a much greater impact on the population, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day. Sales of red poppies to wear on that day are a huge fundraiser for the Royal British Legion.

Share your own thoughts about Veterans Day in this thread.

Rekha Basu, War and Olympics might seem like an odd combination, except for Karlos Kirby:

Karlos Kirby's Afghanistan accounts are not like war stories you're used to. They don't cover his encounters with improvised explosive devices or his base being rocked by rocket fire.

Instead, the former Olympics bobsledder talks of the history and cultures of Afghanistan. He talks about gender segregation in schools under the Taliban regime and the challenges Afghans face getting electricity and medical care. "The war is not the key thing I want to talk about," the Des Moines firefighter says repeatedly, "but the opportunity to make things better because of it."

Since returning in January from a year serving with the U.S. Naval Reserve in Afghanistan, Kirby has barely spoken of the experience to the press. When he talks, his audience is mostly Iowa children. The West Des Moines Valley High School graduate figures he's talked to between 6,000 and 7,000 so far. Even then, he's not urging them to enlist. Instead, he stresses good citizenship and understanding. [...]

The war on terror is not waged on battlefields between armies, but against insurgents who hide explosives on roads. It's not against a country or a single regime but multiple groups. Ten years into Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden is gone, and a U.S.-backed political leadership is in place. But violence is at its worst since the war began, according to the United Nations. An estimated 1,682 U.S. troops have been killed, and it is questionable if the root causes of terrorism have diminished. Yet Afghan forces aren't scheduled to take over until the end of 2014.

Coming home was strange for Kirby. "I kept thinking this is temporary. I'm going to have to go back," he says. "You feel like things weren't finished and you're going to have to see it through to the end."

Asked when he would consider the job done, he said that was up to the president. "I have my personal beliefs about what we are doing," he says. "I voice those beliefs when I close the curtain and vote."

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