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THE UNKNOWN SOLDIERS
ATLANTA--The 2012 presidential campaign is over. America's military campaign in Afghanistan is not.
There have been three presidential elections since the war in Afghanistan erupted after the 9/11 attacks. By any measure, the war was all but invisible during this past campaign, with the candidates' rhetoric and the media's curiosity about the conflict hitting all-time lows.
Virtually ignoring a war being fought by thousands of fellow Americans during a presidential campaign is both unconscionable and unprecedented. I voted in this election, but after writing every week about extraordinary men and women who make tremendous sacrifices at home and abroad to protect our country, I did so with some initial apprehension.
But then I thought about my recent conversation with Senior Airman Angela Jackson, who is stationed at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. She was about halfway through her first deployment when the Nov. 6 election took place, yet was too focused on her mission to worry about how much attention was being paid to Afghanistan back home. She joined the Air Force for bigger reasons.
"You would lay down your life for your co-worker," Senior Airman Jackson told The Unknown Soldiers. "It's hard to be selfish out here, even if you want to be."
Jackson, 25, volunteered to serve in February 2009. Like all U.S. service members who have enlisted since 9/11, she knew deploying to a war zone was a strong possibility. Still, the brave young woman decided to leave her friends and family in Boise, Idaho, for Afghanistan, where snow-capped mountains serve as just about the only reminders of home.
"I've always liked to be part of [something] bigger than myself and being able to have the idea that you're working with other people toward something," she said.
Since leaving for war, Jackson has communicated with her family through email, Facebook, and Skype, but prefers to sit down and compose letters, much like the generations of U.S. troops who served before her.
"I do call them once in a while, but like I said, I mostly do the letter writing," Jackson said.