Entries in War in Afghanistan (6)


Majority of Americans Believe Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan Not Worth Fighting

US Department of Defense(NEW YORK) -- Nearly a decade after the Iraq war began, nearly 60 percent of Americans believe the war was not worth fighting.

Almost as many Americans feel the same way about the war in Afghanistan. While the overall criticisms of the two wars are far below their peaks, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that their critics still far outweight supporters.

The poll shows that 58% of Americans believe the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, while 56% believe the same for the war in Afghanistan.

See the full results of the poll here.

According to the survey, one of the biggest reasons for the criticism is the prevailing opinion that neither war significantly improved the United States' security. Just 51 percent of people surveyed believe the war in Afghanistan contributed positively to domestic security. The number for the Iraq war is even lower, at 46 percent.

Perhaps more striking is that the majority of those who consider the wars to have improved U.S. security, less than half of them believe the wars contributed "a great deal."

The poll found significant differences in responses based on ideologies. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans believe the Iraq war was justified, while just 35 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats feel the same way.

The results of the poll are drastically different from when each war began. Shortly after their beginnings, each war was supported by over 80 percent of Americans. As time has worn on, however, support has decreased. Many Americans, it seems, did not expect the wars to be as drawn-out and costly as they have been.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Texas Navy Veteran Memorizes Names of 2,200 Slain Military Members

ABC News(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- It was a solemn scene Thursday as U.S. Navy veteran Ron White stood at a black wall in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, and wrote in white the full name and rank of each of the 2,200 military members who had died in Afghanistan.

What made the act even more moving was that White had no list. He had memorized the 2,200 names and ranks, more than 7,000 words.

"A couple of years ago, I was looking at the Vietnam Wall and just started thinking, 'What's the Afghanistan memorial going to look like?'" White told "Then I started thinking about that, and I thought, 'I wonder if I could memorize the Vietnam Wall' and that evolved into 'Wait a minute, why don't you memorize the names from Afghanistan? That's the war you served in.'"

White, 39, did a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007.

"Then I just set out to memorize all the names," he said. "The message I wanted to say is, you guys are not forgotten. I'm going to do my part to keep your memory alive, and so that is the message of the wall. You are not forgotten."

White doesn't have a photographic memory, but he is a two-time USA Memory Champion who has made memorization his business over the past 22 years. He teaches a memory class and speaks professionally about how to improve memory.

He began working on memorizing the 2,200 names in May 2012, using the centuries-old loci method ("loci" is Latin for "place").

"Essentially, what you do is you memorize a map of your city, your town where you live," White said. "So there's 2,200 service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. So that means I memorized 2,200 locations in my hometown of Forth Worth, Texas."

The locations included places and sign posts like stop signs, trees, walls, pictures, restaurant booths and restaurant cash registers. He then took each name and turned it into a picture that reminded him of that person, and he visualized a name at each location.

"When I was at the wall, I simply stood at the wall and took an 11-hour mental walk around downtown Fort Worth and wrote out the names," White said. "I was very, very, very focused on the wall, but I was also very conscious of what was going on behind me. It was a very solemn, emotional day. People were just standing there in silence."

As he wrote, White said he kept hearing a woman mention the name Austin Staggs in conversation, one name among the lost soldiers.

"Finally, I turned around and I said, 'Ma'am, did you know Private First Class Austin Staggs?'" White recalled. "And she said, 'Yes, he was my grandson, and I'm going to stand right here and watch you write these names until you get to his name.'"

White told her it would be close to three hours before he reached Staggs' name, but the woman said she would stay. And she did.

"I enjoyed watching him write the names," Staggs' grandmother, Marion Buckner, told "It just gave me chills, really. You see how many families are affected."

Staggs was in a group of six soldiers who died in Afghanistan on Nov. 29, 2010. He was 19 years old. He left behind a son who is now 4 years old.

"He doesn't look so much like Austin, but he has ways like him," Buckner said. "You see him and remember Austin vividly."

Buckner said her daughter, Staggs' mother, arrived at the wall just before White wrote her son's name.

"It just did my heart good when I saw [White] writing his name. It just really made me feel like he really cared about these boys. He had respect for them," said Buckner.

"It was just so personal," White said. "When I wrote out 'Private First Class Austin Staggs,' I was so emotional my hand was shaking."

He said that scene replayed itself again later in the day when a man arrived and said he'd heard about what White was doing on the radio and came to the wall to see his son's name.

White plans to travel with the project around the country, doing the same thing in other cities. He wants to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that helps wounded service members adjust to civilian life, and he encourages people to donate to the group.

"It was such an emotional day, and it was my way of paying respect to these men and their families, letting them know that, yes, the world has gone on and that's why this sacrifice was made, so the world could go on, but I haven't forgotten," said White.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Live Rocket-Propelled Grenade Removed from Marine’s Leg

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- It was a medevac mission like few others that required heroic choices from all involved.

On January 12, Marine Lance Corporal Winder Perez was wounded in a Taliban attack in southern Afghanistan. The live explosive and a foot-long remnant from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) remained lodged in his leg.

A crew of four New Mexico National Guardsmen agreed to take on the risky assignment of flying him by medevac helicopter to get medical care.

“Each of us on the aircraft had to agree to take the patient on,” Spc. Mark Edens told ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“There was quite a bit of alarm among the crew at the time, as you can imagine,” Capt. Kevin Doo told KOAT.  “If the RPG exploded, you know Spc. Edens and Sgt. Hardesty are working on the patient directly over him, shrapnel alone would have been devastating. And about 18 inches behind where the patient is lying is over 300 gallons of jet aviation fuel, and it would have been catastrophic.”

When Perez arrived at the field hospital 65 miles away, he was not brought inside.  Instead Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari and Army Staff Sergeant Ben Summerfield, an explosives expert, stood by his gurney and undertook the risky move of removing the foot-long section of the RPG from his leg. Wearing full combat gear and a flak jacket, Summerfield literally yanked the RPG from his leg, so that medical teams could treat his injuries.

Perez continues to recover from his wounds at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dakota Meyer, Marine Medal of Honor Recipient, Says He’s No Hero

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama presented former Marine Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor at the White House Thursday, making Meyer the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The former Marine sergeant, who shared a beer with the president at the White House Wednesday, insists he is not a hero for repeatedly rushing into heavy enemy fire in an attempt to rescue four missing U.S. servicemembers pinned down in an intense hours-long ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009.  Fighting through a piece of shrapnel that had injured his arm, Meyer later reached the four only to find that they had died in the fighting.

At Thursday’s ceremony President Obama called it “fitting” that the ceremony should take place the same week as the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the war in Afghanistan.

Obama described the 23-year-old as representing “the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war.”

“You did your duty above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps you love,” said Obama.

Obama called Meyer “one of the most down to earth guys that you will ever meet.”  He noted that when the White House contacted him to arrange the president’s phone call to inform him he was to receive the award, he asked that it be scheduled for his lunch hour from his construction job because he said, “if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.”

“I do appreciate, Dakota, you taking my call,” joked President Obama.

Meyer becomes the 10th recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; all but two have been presented posthumously.  Army soldiers Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry are the only other living recipients of the award.

In an interview with ABC’s Bob Woodruff that aired Thursday night on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, Meyer says that if he was faced with the same situation again, “I would do it a hundred times” though he would change only one thing: ”I wish I could have kept them alive.”

He insists he is not a hero, but was only doing “what Marines do…I’m the furthest thing from a hero,” he says, “if this is what it feels like to be a hero you can have it.”  He adds, “What gives me the right to be standing here today and not their kids?  I feel like I failed them and I failed their families.”

Meyer wears bracelets with the names of the four Americans killed in Ganjgal that day and feels some guilt that he survived the battle.

“I guess what’s stuck in my mind is you either get guys out alive or you die trying, if you didn’t die trying, you didn’t try hard enough,” he says.

Now living on his grandparents’ farm in rural Kentucky, Meyer says that he would return to active duty “in a heartbeat” if he could be promised a return to combat “fighting with Marines.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan War Costs Loom Over Obama Troops Announcement

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Obama's planned drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan next month fulfills a promise he made more than a year ago, but also underscores the overwhelming costs of America's longest war.

While the United States grapples with debt and deficit crises, taxpayers are expected to spend more than $118 billion this year in Afghanistan for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans' health care.

That's more than double the amount the Department of Homeland Security spends per year to secure the nation's borders, screen air travelers, and help Americans recover from natural disasters, among other services. Afghanistan war spending is roughly six times the annual budget of NASA.

All told, the war that began in October 2001 has cost taxpayers more than an estimated $443 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service, and the lives of more than 1,523 U.S. military personnel.

Polls show the U.S. public has become increasingly war weary, leading members of both parties -- including some Republican candidates for president -- to pressure Obama to expedite his Afghanistan plan and reprioritize the war funds.

The pace of U.S. withdrawal proposed by Obama "sounds a little slow and a little cautious, when you look at one out of every six Defense Department dollars going in support of what we're doing in Afghanistan," former Utah governor and GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Wednesday on Good Morning America.

"Nine years and 50 days into this conflict, the money that has been spent on both conflicts, well over $1 trillion, I think we have to say, 'What have we accomplished in Afghanistan?'" he said.

Huntsman is not alone. While 57 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News poll say the war has contributed to long-term national security, far fewer, 25 percent, say it has contributed "a great deal," which is the kind of payback many want to see, given the war's steep price tag.

The Pentagon says all of its war-related costs since Sept. 11, 2001, including in Iraq, have topped $1 trillion. Add diplomatic expenses and care for veterans and total government spending reaches an estimated $1.3 trillion.

In a Senate speech Tuesday, freshman Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia said it was time to "rebuild America, not Afghanistan," and that Obama should pursue significant troop reduction immediately.

Earlier in the week, members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors also urged Congress to end both the Afghan and Iraq wars and invest the money instead on jobs at home.

Still, while Obama is expected to announce a reduction of 5,000 to 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, and as many as 30,000 "surge" troops next year, the shift won't dramatically reduce the burden of war on America's budget, statistics show.

The Pentagon estimates show that taxpayers could save $30 billion in the first year of a drawdown.

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects war costs in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the next decade could still top $496 billion -- even if troop levels fall to 45,000 from 102,000 -- by 2015.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Marine Battalion Returns Home After Bloody Afghan Deployment

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PENDLETON, Calif.) -- The Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines have begun to come home to Camp Pendleton after an intense eight month tour in Afghanistan that top Pentagon officials say will rank their battles among the legends of Marine lore.

Referred to as the 3-5, the 950-man Marine battalion experienced some of the highest casualty rates ever experienced by an American combat unit in the war in Afghanistan with 25 dead and 140 wounded. The casualties included more than a dozen amputees.

One of the fatalities was 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, the son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly, who is the personal military aide to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The general was the highest ranking officer to lose a child in Afghanistan.

There were happy reunions at Camp Pendleton Monday night as the first wave of 250 Marines returned home from a tour that garnered them praise for their heroism after a long tough fight.

The unit began its bloody tour in October when it took over control of Sangin district from British forces that had also taken significant casualties during their deployments in what had long been a Taliban stronghold.

The Marines were given the tough task of pushing out beyond the town center to broaden the security zone for local residents. They faced heavy combat almost instantly and the unit's increasingly high casualty rates last fall raised concern among top Pentagon officials. By January, Marine commanders were praising the 3-5 Marines for their heroism and battlefield successes that had pushed Taliban forces out of the district.

As the unit's losses mounted during their deployment, military medical personnel said they were surprised by the unit's mental health resiliency and said they didn't find higher combat stress levels.

In an effort to reduce the effects of possible Post Traumatic Stress back home, more mental health professionals have been brought to Camp Pendleton to help the unit and their families. Furthermore, the unit has been ordered to be kept as intact as possible for three months so that the Marines can decompress together. While an Army combat battalion saw 27 fatalities during a 15-month tour, no other unit has faced such high casualty rates in a tour that was half that length.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio