Idaho has paid a blood toll for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than 60 lives. More than 60 families left to grieve. Thats countless sacrifices.
That is a pretty significant investment, said retired Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart, who commanded the Idaho National Guards 116th on its first mission to Iraq and who helped organize the Idaho Fallen Soldier Memorial. These young Idahoans were dedicated to our freedom. It really says a lot about the values of Idaho.
As the U.S. looks to disengage from the combat it launched under the umbrella war on terror, its not clear what the ultimate legacy in the war-torn Middle East will be.
Gayhart contrasts the involvement of the entire nation following Pearl Harbor to the involvment today. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, less than 1 percent of the population is in uniform.
Gayhart quotes the saying: The Army went to war and the country went to Walmart.
The challenge this Memorial Day, Gayhart says, is to recognize that the day means more than cooking out with family and friends.
We should remember every day, he said. They should know we remember their sacrifice.
Idaho ranks 17th in the nation for the number of soldiers killed per capita in the war in Iraq, according to StateMaster.com.
The list of at least 65 Idahoans who died on 9/11 or in the military actions in Iraq or Afghanistan that followed also includes civilians.
Brady Howell died in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Master Sgt. Evander Andrews died the next month on an airstrip in Qatar. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone of Boise was one of the first casualties of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. Last month, Sgt. Chris Workman died in a helicopter crash on a mission to save injured Afghan police officers.
Citizen-soldiers of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team have twice deployed, in 2004 and 2010.
Gayhart points to Carrie French, 19, of Caldwell, who volunteered to go on a dangerous patrol that was not part of her normal duty. One of her colleagues was ill. She was killed by a roadside bomb.
That was under my command, Gayhart said.
Pfc. John Borbonus, 19, of Boise, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
He stood his ground against a truck that was laden with explosives and attempting to drive into a base, Gayhart said. Borbonus steady stream of fire diverted the vehicle before it detonated. He was killed, but he saved others.
Sgt. Richard Carl and Sgt. Workman were both killed in Black Hawk helicopter crashes.
They were killed in missions to help civilians, Gayhart said. It tells us about the heart of these good soldiers.
Veterans and public officials will gather with families and others at cemeteries and facilities for veterans around the state Monday. Theyll raise a U.S. flag and speak somber words.
At least 64 Idahoans wont be there.
I know a little bit about every one of these soldiers, Gayhart said. The impact on their families is the most important thing we should remember. I think the most comfort we can give them is to make them know we appreciate the sacrifice they have given for our freedoms.
Kathleen Kreller: 377-6418