The Rio Grande Valley has laid yet another of our children to rest far too soon. We can only imagine the pain felt by the family of Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon, who was killed on duty Jan. 11 in Afghanistan. But the community has also suffered the loss, and we thank the family for allowing the community to share their grief through public commemorations.
Villalon joins dozens of other Valley natives, and hundreds of other U.S. military personnel, who have died while serving our country other lands. Villalon, 21, and Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Va., were killed when an explosive device struck their vehicle near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Two other soldiers survived the attack, according to military reports.
We join their families, friends and all Americans in praying that theirs will be the last drops of blood spilled on foreign soil.
The attack was not directly related to recent acts of aggression between the United States and Iran. Rather, it is part of what has become our longest sustained military combat campaign in history. In fact, both President Trump, and President Obama before him, promised to end our military presence in Afghanistan during their campaigns. Trump repeatedly criticized our involvement in “endless wars.”
Once in office, however, neither followed through with the promise.
Trump in recent days has renewed talk of leaving Afghanistan, but he’s also talked about escalating our involvement there, saying he has a “method of war,” killing 20 million people, in which “Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone.”
Our campaign in Afghanistan is in its 19th year and produced more than 800,000 casualties, including some 7,300 U.S military personnel, allied forces and contractors, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Project.
And throughout, Valley residents, just like Villalon, have volunteered to serve their country, even facing hostile forces half a world away. Sadly, many of them have perished in the effort.
It’s a lot to ask of the people upon whom we hope to build our future. We will never know if any of those we’ve lost might have been our own child’s favorite teacher or mentor; who might have been a great council member or legislator; what inventions or innovations they might have produced. Have we lost the cure for cancer to a Taliban bullet?
All in the name of a decades-long military action that violates one of the primary objectives of war: have a defined goal and stick to it. Our nebulous “war on terrorism” has no specific target, although t knee was replaced. We have eliminated some of the primary sponsors and perpetrators of terrorism, including Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and, most recently, Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimami. But, as is the case with our long and equally futile war on drugs, as soon as one is eliminated another rises to take his place.
That is the nature of war — new blood replaces old. It’s long past time to evaluate our involvement in Afghanistan and other hostile lands, and decide if the results — or even the objectives — are worth the price that our children, and families pay. Let the loss of Miguel Angel Villalon finally inspire us to seek peace with other nations, and end our tragic, and endless, wars.