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Published August 26, 2011, 12:00 AM

Val Farmer: Troops are not alone on the battlefield

Our country has just suffered an almost unspeakable loss of 30 American servicemen shot down in Afghanistan, 17 of whom were Navy Seals. What a horrible body punch to the best fighters our nation has to offer

By: By Val Farmer, INFORUM

Our country has just suffered an almost unspeakable loss of 30 American servicemen shot down in Afghanistan, 17 of whom were Navy Seals. What a horrible body punch to the best fighters our nation has to offer. We rejoiced when they got Osama bin Laden. We grieve when they suffer losses. They are our proxies fighting for good in a nasty and brutish world.

Make no mistake. What they are doing in Afghanistan or wherever they are assigned is noble. They are trying to provide a secure environment and rebuild a country for strangers from a different culture, religion and language than our own.

America is great because we as a country choose to extend our ideals of democracy to oppressed peoples. We stand for something. We also recognize the threat to ourselves and are willing stand in our own defense.

The soldiers have trained for this. As military units, they have learned skills, gained knowledge and developed teamwork bonds with each other. They have the know-how, courage and teamwork to be liberators and rescuers.

Though they did not choose the time or place for their specific mission – they had already chosen to serve our country and our commander in chief willingly.

It is their unanimity of purpose, their bonds with each other, the confidence they place in their leaders and the values they carry in their hearts that goes with them into the flames of combat and into the heart of danger.

They are soldiers. They have a mission, and they want with all their heart to be successful. They are doing what they have been trained to do. It is not their skill, their armaments nor their superior technology that makes them strong; it is their willingness to rescue others from injustice, abuse and despair.

Nobody fights a war alone. In a war, there is a buddy to your rear and at your side and ahead of you. No one is left behind. It is the comradeship and bonds with each other that make fighting and victory possible. Having comrades in arms tranquilizes the nervous system. It makes all the difference in the world.

It is when we feel alone or abandoned that hearts grow weary and faint and the battle becomes too hard. In this war, soldiers may be more vulnerable to discouragement by the actions of people back home than when they are in harm’s way.

That’s where families and communities come in. Every person deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq or supporting the war on terrorism worldwide is connected to a family and a community in our country. Every story of a deployed soldier is a family story. In this age of technology, the buddies at our side include our families and the community.

Because of our technology – emails, phone calls, care packages, etc. – more than ever, the soldiers will be evaluating if the folks back home are there for them when lives are at risk. It is an opportunity to grow closer to be there for each other.

Families under fire. The family is in a battle, too, and needs encouragement, love and support. Life is different. Life is harder. Families are enduring hardships they hadn’t bargained for. They are also making huge sacrifices.

Family members also need to feel someone is at their side. They have special needs and challenges. They need soothing, hope, care and comfort. They need recognition for their hardships. They might need tangible help. They, too, look to their family, relatives, community, political leaders and each other for support.

A special kind of support comes from other families who also have loved ones serving in the war zone. The buddies at their side, the ones behind them and the ones out in front are other families walking in the same shoes and along the same path.

Community support. We don’t want troops or their families to feel alone. We want to remember. To recognize. To honor. To assist in whatever way we can. We care, we still care and as long as conflict extends itself, we will continue to care for their struggles.

This is our war, too. Our nation-building. Our peace. Our security that is being upheld. What we do and say from behind the lines means a lot. Troops and family members, we also hope to be at your side, behind you and looking out for you through our acts of kindness, generosity and support. Let us know when we are failing at that task. Let us know how to do it better.

We are proud to be a part of a country whose generosity and ideals extend across borders and embrace the good in all humanity. It is who we are. When you read or hear of hurtful and tragic things, know also that we hurt and care.

The documentary “Taking Chance” depicts the spontaneous show of respect we Americans provide to our fallen heroes. It is deeply emotional account of how we honor the ones who didn’t make it back.

When your loved ones return, we want to be at your side, rejoicing with them, honoring them for a job well done and a noble mission accomplished.

Nobody should have to fight a war alone. Nobody. Be there for each other, and we hope to be there for you. Thank you for being there for us.

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website,