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Last week, we received a short press release from the U.S. Department of Defense. The release stated in relatively simple, straightforward terms that three American soldiers were killed July 23 by an improvised explosive devise in Soltan Kheyl, Afghanistan, a small village 100 kilometers south-southwest of the capital of Kabul along the road to Kandahar.

One of those soldiers, 25-year-old 1st Lt. Jonam Russell, was a resident of Cornville. His comrades in arms were identified as Sgt. Stefan M. Smith, of Glennville, Ga. and Spc. Rob L. Nichols, of Colorado Springs, Colo., both 24 years old.

1st Lt. Jonam Russell, of Cornville, was killed July 23 while on active duty in Afghanistan.All three were on their first deployment.

The war in Afghanistan is now the second-longest armed conflict in American history, after the Vietnam War. American soldiers have been fighting throughout the hills and mountains of that central Asian country three times longer than they fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II.

The war in Iraq often received more press coverage over the last decade because it was larger, more controversial, and deadlier in terms of military and civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Americans and military allies have fought and died in Afghanistan for a simpler and more direct purpose, to eliminate the Al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban government which gave them sanctuary.

Now, nearly 12 years later, a generation of children too young to comprehend the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are old enough to volunteer and fight in a war waged for most of their lives.

Afghanistan is historically called the Tomb of Empires, with good reason. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tsarist Russia, the British Empire and the Soviet Union have all invaded the region, failed to pacify it and retreated after fruitless campaigns. Sunni Pakistan and Shia Iran have used the region to undermine each other and will likely do so after Western powers leave.

Post-war humanitarian aid, as well as political and military support, may help the country and its people recover from 34 years of continuous warfare, but only history will determine if the American invasion of the country will have any long-term effect.

In the meantime, American soldiers return with mental and physical injuries that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Regardless of politics and past debates, our obligation today is to give these soldiers the support they need after their sacrifices on the battlefield.

Russell and all his brothers- and sisters-in-arms have served their country, protected each other, and sometimes, given the last full measure of devotion. Our thoughts are with our soldiers and their families.

Christopher Fox Graham

News Editor

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