We must not forget

We must not forget
People in our corner of the state got to see history in the making with the homecoming, parade and deactivation of Charlie Battery in Yankton Saturday afternoon.

It was an event reminiscent of a time decades ago, recorded by newsreels and LIFE magazine photographers, when the ticker at Times Square announced the end of World War II.

The result? One of the most famous, happy images of that era – a sailor practically sweeping a young woman off of her feet to give her a long kiss.


The members of Charlie Battery had plenty to celebrate Saturday. They were safely back on South Dakota soil.

It was, however, a bittersweet time as members of the National Guard unit and the public took time to remember four comrades who sacrificed their lives while in Iraq: Sgt. 1st Class Richard Schild, Staff Sgt. Daniel Cuka, Staff. Sgt. Gregory Wagner and Sgt. Allen Kokesh Jr.

In addition, Sgt. Corey Briest and Spc. Brian Knigge were wounded in action. Briest remains hospitalized in California.

It's easy for us now to breathe a collective sigh of relief, knowing that our loved ones in Charlie Battery, including 11 soldiers from Vermillion, are back home.

We must keep this fact in mind, however. There are still dozens of South Dakotans in harm's way in the Middle East.

According to Rep. Stephanie Herseth's office, 82 members of the 114th Fighter Wing, based in Sioux Falls, are still in Iraq.

Several soldiers based in Rapid City are also still in Iraq, including one member of the 249th Aviation unit, two members of the 189th Medical Company, one member of the 109th Engineering Group and two members of the 155th Engineering Detachment.

Fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan are the 16 members of the South Dakota National Guard's147th Field Artillery.

In summary, we have 88 South Dakotans still in Iraq, and 16 in Afghanistan.

Charlie Battery is starting to once again share the same day-to-day worries as the rest of us, ranging from concerns about home, school and work, to how well will the Twins will do in the playoffs.

It's a far cry from what our soldiers must deal with in Iraq.

Just this week, a series of bombs went off in rapid succession in a shopping district in a mainly Christian neighborhood of Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding 50. The dead were among 28 people killed in attacks across Iraq.

The U.S. military also announced the death of two soldiers – the latest in what has been one of the bloodiest stretches of days for American troops this year.

At least 17 troops have been killed in combat since Saturday, including eight U.S. soldiers who died in gun battles and bomb blasts Monday in Baghdad – the most killed in a single day in the capital since July 2005.

Just before noon Wednesday, a car bomb and two roadside bombs blew up in the span of 10 minutes in a shopping district of the Camp Sara neighborhood, which is predominantly Christian, 1st Lt. Ali Abbas said.

The blasts left 16 dead and injured 87, including shoppers and 15 policemen. They destroyed cars and collapsed part of a nearby building, he said.

According to news reports, an increasingly common insurgent tactic is to detonate one bomb to draw rescue workers and onlookers, then to explode a second device to cause more casualties.

The members of Charlie Battery know too well how devastating war can be. That's why their return home was so worth celebrating.

More than 250,000 National Guard troops have been mobilized for active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the Army general in charge of National Guard forces.

Since 9/11, the South Dakota Army National Guard has mobilized more than 2,700 soldiers from 30 different units to support the Global War on Terrorism.�During the deployment peak, South Dakota had more than 1,500 soldiers in Iraq.

Now, as we move on with our lives, it's important that all of us not forget the South Dakotans, and the other U.S. and allied forces who face danger every day.

It's the least we can do.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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