“Comms blackout” is a phrase you never want to hear while deployed. I didn’t know what it meant until November 13, 2009. That day a soldier in our unit was killed by an improvised explosive device in the Sayed Abad district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. He, like the rest of us, had been sent to the country to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
In a communications blackout, lines go “black” to prevent soldiers from contacting the friends or family of the deceased until two soldiers, dressed in Class A uniforms, can knock on the next of kin’s door to give them the devastating news.
This grim process has happened more than 2,296 times since the start of the war in Afghanistan, now called Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Over and over and again the bodies of U.S. troops have been flown to Dover Air Force Base with U.S. flags draped over them, carried off by a military detail, and transferred to the Air Force Mortuary on base. There, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner confirms identification through dental impressions and photographs, and autopsies are performed to identify the cause of death. Those servicemembers are then dressed in pristine uniforms and transported to their hometown with a military escort.
After the Camp David fiasco, National Security Advisor John Bolton’s firing, and the Afghan peace talks with the Taliban declared “dead”—there is still no plan for withdrawal. Troops are still fighting in Afghanistan and the death toll number is increasing every day. This is unacceptable. The blood that America has put into this war is honorable and far beyond duty.