About the Author: Karl W. Eikenberry serves as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.
This Memorial Day, more American families have sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends in Afghanistan than ever before. I am honored to work with these brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and civilians every day. I am proud of the courage, selfless dedication and kindness I see in them every day. And I am overwhelmed by the sacrifice so many are making out of love for our nation and the freedoms we believe in as fundamental.
This Memorial Day, as you come together across the United States, Americans will quietly gather on military bases across Afghanistan to honor the friends and loved ones they have fought beside, worked beside, lived beside and lost here. At the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, we will gather together in the morning on Memorial Day to honor everyone who died in service to our nation this year. For all of us in Afghanistan, these losses are deeply felt.
It has been a year of heartening progress in Afghanistan, and I truly believe that we are better positioned to succeed than we have ever been. But, that does not take away the great pain we feel over the losses we and our families at home have suffered. Today, more than 1,000 American military service members have died in Afghanistan. Our NATO allies and other partners have suffered great losses, as well. In October, three brave Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agents were killed when their helicopter crashed in Western Afghanistan. Then in December, seven of our colleagues were lost in a tragic attack in Eastern Afghanistan.
On this day with such meaning for all Americans, if I have any special perspective to provide as the U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan, it would be to tell you that I see your loved ones working tirelessly on America's behalf every day in difficult circumstances and am overwhelmed with pride in who they are and what they represent -- the absolute best of our nation. If I have any special perspective to offer, it would be to tell you that I have no doubt that the Afghan people appreciate the sacrifices we are making and that they want the same thing that we want -- a country that can never again be home to the terrorism that rendered us together on September 11. It changed their lives for the worse, just as it has changed ours. Brave Afghan security forces are dying every day beside us, and Afghan civilians are dying in callous attacks by militant Taliban extremists and terrorists. The Afghan people are not deterred, and neither should we be.
The author served in the United States Army for nearly 35 years, and retired as a Lieutenant General to become the U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan in April 2009.