Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent was 35. I say “was” because she is dead. The Navy cryptologic tech, who grew up in Dutchess County, N.Y., died in a suicide bombing in Syria along with 15 other people. She spoke at least six languages, had deployed overseas several times, earned many Navy commendations, faced numerous combat situations, and much more. Her husband is also in the military and her father is a high-ranking New York State Police official.
I am thankful for my health. For my wife. For my family. My freedom. My paycheck.
I am also very thankful that I haven’t had to face a reality that tens of thousands of families are asked to endure: Living in or having a loved one in a war zone. And I am also thankful that I personally have not been asked to leave my family behind and fight a war in an unfamiliar land.
Part of my job is to write/post stories about service men and women with ties to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut who are killed overseas in the various conflicts in which the U.S. military is engaged. A danger exists when posting these stories; one can become desensitized to what the press releases from the DoD mean for the real people behind the names.
These soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen would probably say they do not need to be idolized or lionized. And we shouldn’t gloss over the truth that they are simply human, with all the flaws and strengths and hopes and dreams of humans.
But the big difference is they are doing something we aren’t being asked to do and bearing a burden we don’t have to worry about. They leave home—often small towns they have lived in their entire lives—and are put in harm’s way for causes, missions, and goals that are often debatable and vague and fleeting.
And now during the government shutdown, the more than 40,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard continue to stand watch while not getting paid.
What we should do is simple: Remember and appreciate what they and their families go through and find some way to say thank you and help. These are some organizations that help members of the U.S. armed forces:
- Coast Guard Foundation
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
- DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust
- Blue Star Families
[For an amazing perspective on what war in Afghanistan is like for U.S. troops, read Sebastian Junger’s “War.”]