Thanks offered to militaryPublished 10:37am Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Just before Veterans Day, I was afforded a unique opportunity to spend some time alongside our military personnel who are stationed on the frontlines in Afghanistan.
With Thanksgiving approaching, the visit was both a chance to personally deliver a much-deserved “thank you” to our armed forces far from home, and a reminder of the dedication of our military who face many challenges each day in a very different environment than most of us will ever experience. Traveling with a small congressional delegation, this was my third trip to Afghanistan to assess the progress of America’s ongoing mission to stabilize that vast country which was once ruled by an outlaw regime aligned with al Qaeda.
To be sure, America cannot and should not remain in Afghanistan one day longer than is necessary to stabilize the country so that it no longer poses a threat as a terrorist haven. But the consensus of Ambassador Crocker, General Allen and our military personnel in the field is that there is reason for cautious optimism. Short of a significant increase in terrorist activity from it’s neighbors, Afghan forces, supported by the coalition, can achieve irreversible gains and secure Afghanistan’s key terrain by the end of 2014. While in Afghanistan, I also traveled to Helmand Province, near the border with Pakistan, where I witnessed the progress made by our brave and determined Marine Corps. The Marines recently toppled the last enemy stronghold in Helmand and are now preparing for an upgrade in the region’s infrastructure, which will include new roads and a dam for hydro-electric power. This was my third time to walk on the ground in Helmand Province, an area throughout the war known for its clashes with insurgent forces.
The highlight of our visit to Afghanistan was a reunion with men and women from the 1165th Military Police Company based in Fairhope. I last saw many of them in January when I spoke at their departure ceremony at the Fairhope Civic Center. I must admit that the 1165th and I shared a similar meeting away from home in the early days after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In December 2003, I met members of the 1165th while visiting Baghdad. Members of the unit placed a Christmas tree in a place once used by Saddam’s regime to torture his political opponents. Needless to say, it was a very moving experience.
It was an honor to have lunch with military personnel from Atmore, Spanish Fort, Mobile, Brewton, Satsuma and Demopolis. We can all be proud of their service as well as the service of all our military personnel from Alabama and elsewhere who are patrolling the frontlines and helping to secure the peace near and far this Thanksgiving.