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Heroes fight to preserve life as we know it
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: Life As We Know It

 A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Spc. Tyler J. Orgaard, of Bismark, N.D., at Dover Air Force Base.
Greg L. Davis/Courtesy of U. S. Air Force
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Date published: 12/30/2012


--It's easy to forget that thousands of Americans are still at war.

Whether we're immersed in our families, jobs, hobbies, televisions, computers, or smartphones, there are plenty of ways to avoid thinking about a faraway place called Afghanistan. The 1 percent of our population that volunteers to protect us, however, doesn't have that luxury.

Two North Dakota families are experiencing incomprehensible devastation after a Dec. 3 terrorist attack in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. According to the Department of Defense, two North Dakota National Guardsmen died that day when "enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device."

The fallen soldiers' names are Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde, 41, of Devils Lake, N.D., and Spc. Tyler Orgaard, 20, of Bismarck, N.D.

As I read the casualty notice on my iPhone, I thought about the agony that has been described to me by moms, dads, wives, husbands, and siblings who've lost loved ones in Afghanistan or Iraq. To this day, casualty assistance officers are still knocking on the doors of military families that will never be the same.

Instead of hugging and kissing their families at a homecoming ceremony, Sgt. 1st Class Linde and Spc. Orgaard returned to American soil inside flag-draped caskets. Fellow soldiers saluted and bowed their heads during the Dec. 5 dignified transfer ceremony at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base.

During the holiday season, the Linde and Orgaard families are forced to endure the first painful weeks of an unimaginably difficult journey. As we grieve alongside the loved ones of the brave adults and precious children murdered in the tragic Connecticut elementary school massacre, let's also keep these military families, as well as loved ones of all our nation's fallen heroes, in our thoughts and prayers.

According to the North Dakota National Guard, a third soldier, Spc. Ian Placek, 23, was wounded in the Dec. 3 attack. Like thousands of fellow wounded warriors, Spc. Placek, his family and his caregivers have earned our utmost respect, appreciation, and gratitude. As Americans, we have no greater obligation than caring for the valiant men and women who fought for us.

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