(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 6:16 PM
Members of the Louisiana National Guard have proved themselves to be worthy of being called American heroes. Family, friends and Gov. Bobby Jindal last week said their final farewells to one of them, Specialist Chris Drake of Tickfaw, the 41st member of the state National Guard to make the supreme sacrifice during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“To our children, to our young ones, we live in a culture that honors people for being famous,” Jindal said. “We look up to people who are famous just because they are famous. I want to encourage you to use Chris as an example, as a role model, as a hero for you.”
The Advocate said the hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate Drake’s life were told not to mourn, but to celebrate his life and accomplishments.
“We are not here for ourselves,” said Capt. Page Brooks, a chaplain with the state National Guard. “We are here to honor Christopher and the sacrifice that he has made for his community, for his family, for the state of Louisiana, for his country.”
Drake was killed when his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on May 26. The Times-Picayune said he is the third Louisiana National Guard soldier to die in Afghanistan.
The newspaper said during the last 12 years of war the conflict in Iraq has “proved to be far deadlier to the Louisiana National Guard, accounting for 85 percent (35) of its dead.”
The death toll in the Iraq war is higher because more National Guard troops were mobilized for that conflict. The Times-Picayune said of the 41 Guard casualties, 30 of those troops were assigned to the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a unit that was deployed twice to Iraq. Late 2004 through late 2005 is described as one of the deadlier periods for U.S. troops in Iraq.
Six Louisiana soldiers died Jan. 6, 2005, in what the newspaper said was the largest single-day loss for the state since the Korean War.
Louisiana’s overall military death toll in the two wars is 135. That number includes soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have died since Sept. 11, 2001.
In Iraq, the U.S. lost 4,486 service members between the March 2003 invasion and last year, The Times-Picayune said. The U.S. death toll in Afghanistan since 2001 totals 2,235. The death toll this year is 61, and 22 of them died in May.
One death is one too many, and many Americans look forward to the day when all of the troops will either be home or in safe surroundings wherever they are stationed. Meanwhile, we must never forget the sacrifices like those made by Drake and the others. They volunteered so that the rest of us could use feel safer in a world that will never be totally secure as long as the war on terror continues.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.