Washington, DC - President Obama has declared that what has been called the longest war in U.S. history, the conflict in Afghanistan, is over. More than 2,200 American service men and women were killed there in 13 years of conflict. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten, according to the Association of Mature American Citizens.
Nor should we forget any of those brave soldiers who risked and gave their lives to keep us safe, says AMAC. For example, 70 years ago perhaps the most definitive battle of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, was fought. It began on December 16, 1944 and continued until January 28, 1945. During those six weeks, more than 10,276 American soldiers were killed, 47,493 were wounded and 23,218 were missing in action.
It was a startling loss of life but it lead directly to the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe.
It is inconceivable what life would be like for us had the Nazi horde succeeded in that desperate counteroffensive, says Dan Weber, president of AMAC. But soldiers like 19-year-old Private Clayton R. Byrd, Jr., a member of L Company, 302nd Regiment, 94th Infantry Division, were not about to let that happen. Byrd was in the thick of things in January 1945. He and his companions in L Company were lost behind enemy lines, hungry, outnumbered and running low on ammunition.
In an interview for a documentary focused on World War II, Byrd recalled: "We realized that we were cut off from any friendly forces with no way of communicating with our commanders." In fact, Byrd's family and those of each of the survivors in what was left of L Company "received telegrams from the War Department that we would either have been captured, annihilated or, in any event, no longer there. We were missing in action."
Soon, a German platoon attacked and Byrd and his band of brothers forced them back. The enemy tried again and again to overrun the Americans but Byrd and his men held their position for seven days until advancing Allied troops found them.
"We got credit for so upsetting the Germans. They didn't know where the front lines really were. We had trusted each other, and we knew that if we were going to go down, we'd go down together. And, I'm proud of that group of people."
As Weber put it: "We, too, are proud. We're proud of Private Byrd. We're proud of each and every member of L Company. And we're proud of all the service men and women who have served in the middle east, in Viet Nam and Korea and all of those who continue to volunteer in order to keep watch over their families and ours."