For All of Us
By Melissa Kim
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my high school Spanish class was interrupted by the announcement that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. As I stared out of the window of my classroom at the clear blue sky, terrorism was the farthest thing from my mind as Fort Bragg, home of the 18th Airborne Corps and just a mile ahead from school, began its emergency lock-down procedures.
The following hours, days, weeks, months have now bled together in the 15 years since that tragic day. As a civilian, I have only experienced a privileged side of war — security screenings at the airport, watching patriotic celebrations that honor our troops play out in our hometowns, and seeing the war unfold in the media day in and day out. I’ve seen friends enlist, commission, then ship out to long deployments, leaving behind the world they knew to enter a hostile battlefield of the unknown, and returning as changed men and women. Then I married a United States Marine and the war on terror suddenly became the blaring sun that my life revolves around.
By the time this post is published, we will have tragically seen more than 59,295 casualties of both wounded and lives lost across five U.S. military campaigns in the Global War on Terror. As our nation’s longest war, it has become a defining chapter of our generation that has grown alongside many of us. And as the generation of Facebook and the 24/7 news cycle, we can even see in real time, the war happen before our eyes as our fellow citizens surge forward in bravery to fight for our freedom and the freedom of others. And in this increasingly digital age, this war is surely the most connected conflict we have ever experienced.
It is this same connectivity that allows me to see the hardship our wounded warriors face, to see the powerful grief of our Gold Star families, to open my eyes and stare face-to-face at the countless losses and penetrating fear that the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations endure every single day. That’s why I want to see to it that this memorial comes to its final resting place on the National Mall. It’s why I believe this memorial is for all of us to build together in honor of all the men and women who have courageously fought in this war. Because this memorial will surely underline one truth to us: we are free.
If I can ask anything of my generation, it is to not allow the Global War on Terror to become mere background noise in your daily life. Every single one of us can play a role in the this critical mission. We have the opportunity to create a monument together that will not only symbolize the sacrifice of these last 15 years at war, but we also have the incredible honor to create a sacred gathering place for our veterans to reflect upon, and for the rest of us, a reminder of why we continue to thrive in jubilant freedom.