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Tom Sileo's column: The Unknown Soldiers. Finding beauty.
ATLANTA--Before Cpl. Reece Lodder deployed to Afghanistan last fall, he agonized over leaving his beautiful wife behind.
"Preparing to say goodbye to the most important person in your life for seven months it hurts," the 22-year-old Marine told The Unknown Soldiers in 2011. "It's a struggle."
Today, after risking his life in one of the world's most dangerous places, Cpl. Lodder is home.
"It was a really good deployment," Lodder said Aug. 30 from Marine Corps Base Hawaii. "I'm thankful it's over, but sometimes
The fact that anyone would "miss" Afghanistan's Helmand province, especially while stationed in Hawaii, speaks to the selflessness of a young generation that has consistently stepped forward since Sept. 11, 2001. But if you ask Lodder, he was simply doing his job and owes everything to his fellow Marines, and his loved ones in the state of Washington.
"I had so much support from my family and church back home," he said. "God got us through this."
While some politicians and media pundits are self-proclaimed experts on the decade-plus Afghanistan conflict, the opinions of Americans like Lodder, as one of a relative handful to serve there, truly matter. From his perspective, America is making progress in Afghanistan because our nation's bravest men and women are still willing to serve and sacrifice.
"It's not a sexy story," the military journalist said. "But the [Afghan] people were very receptive to the work we've done."
Lodder, who jumped between several units while capturing images and filing reports, said a storyline pushed by some in the mainstream media--Afghan civilians universally despising American troops--is simply not accurate.
"They were thankful and kind of in awe of the fact that we were over there to help them and to serve," Lodder said. "In some respects, realistically, they're kind of used to us being there."
Still, tragic violence continues in Afghanistan, including an increase in so-called "insider attacks" against U.S. forces by terrorists wearing Afghan military or police uniforms. While Lodder's heart aches for the families of his fallen brothers and sisters in arms, the Marine believes the cowardly attacks reveal a drastically weakened enemy.
"The insurgents are so desperate that's what they're resorting to," Lodder said. "They're so weak because of all the work that we've done to push them out and cripple their insurgency."