Editor's Note: Lisa Leitz is an assistant professor of Sociology at Hendrix College and the wife of a U.S. Naval aviator currently deployed in support of the war in Afghanistan. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lisa Leitz.
By Lisa Leitz, PhD
Military Families Speak Out Board of Directors
As President Obama weighs the strategy in Afghanistan, I along with the members of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) ask him to consider the burden he is asking military families to bear. While most Americans go about their daily lives, military families, who make up less than 1% of the total U.S. population, are being crushed by the weight of the current wars.
In the eight years of America’s war in Afghanistan, 911 military families lost their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters (and an additional 4,357 lost loved ones in Iraq). October 2009 was in fact the deadliest month of the war in all eight years. Tens of thousands of military families battle with the daily difficulties of war injuries. Friends of mine have had to quit jobs or school in order to care for loved ones, and they continue to struggle to secure the care these veterans deserve. An estimated 500,000 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq wrestle with PTSD, and their loved ones fight daily battles with an overburdened Veterans’ Administration and to hold their families together.
Hundreds of thousands of us strive to keep marriages and families from falling apart as our loved ones repeatedly deploy without the recommended and necessary down time. Personally, I have barely seen my husband in the last 3 years. He is currently stationed aboard the USS Nimitz from which he flies missions over Afghanistan. When he returns from this deployment, he will have served away from his home base for 26 out of the last 36 months. These deployments have meant a life on hold. It added years to my time in school, I’ve had to move and set up our first house without him, and we have postponed dozens of decisions about our family’s future.
In spite of military members’ best efforts over the last eight years, there has been little tangible progress made in Afghanistan. We are no closer to peace or national security because of our military might. Eight years of war have brought little to no improvement in public services, education, or equality to Afghanistan. The American-backed government in Afghanistan is infested with corruption, election fraud, warlords, and drug dealers. Many of the Afghans who fight the U.S. military do so simply out of resentment of our occupation, not out of allegiance to terrorism or the Taliban. Tens of thousands of Afghans have died as a result of this war, and their traumatized families blame the U.S. for their plight. We need to listen to the people of Afghanistan, including women’s and human rights organizations, and former American diplomats who have served in Afghanistan, such as Ann Wright and Matthew Hoh, and increase social services and schools there, not troop levels.
Historically, wars in Afghanistan have brought down several world powers; let our hubris in Afghanistan not be the end of America as we know it. The surge and any continuation of the war will only destroy more lives, detract from our military capabilities to face threats at home, further threaten America’s international credibility, and push this country further into debt. Please stop the madness and support military families in the process.