Yesterday in Kabul, it was business as usual: writing memos, reading emails, attending meetings, picking up dinner from the cafeteria, and thinking of our loved ones. On this Memorial Day, we wonder how they are celebrating. Perhaps it is watching a hometown parade honoring local veterans, or going to see the first blockbuster movie of the season. Maybe it is hosting a cookout or going to the beach.
While we all pause on Memorial Day to remember the fallen, we also pay tribute to those who have perished in pursuit of freedom by enjoying the aforementioned small pleasures. In the United States, we understand we can attend a parade without fear of violence, that the blockbuster we are watching will not be censored, and that we can buy food in abundance for our Memorial Day barbeques. These beginning-of-summer activities celebrate in their own small but vastly important way the fact that freedom clearly rings across America, as our families and friends enjoy a day together, without fear.
Today in Kabul, we pause to remember that "business as usual" is anything but in Afghanistan. Diplomacy in a war zone can be a paradox unto itself. Yet each day, we acknowledge the memory of service members and diplomats no longer with us by carrying on their important work. Because between the meetings, the memos, and the emails, there are constant reminders of what is at stake and why our fallen did not die in vain.
Last week, a colleague and I had the opportunity to visit one of the Embassy-sponsored Lincoln Learning Centers in Kabul. On that particular day, we visited a group of female high school and college students. These young ladies were studying journalism, economics, computer science, and international affairs, and their wit and intellectual curiosity shone through as they peppered us with foreign policy questions. However, towards the end of the conversation, one young student quietly asked us if we had ever witnessed a suicide bombing. We both sobered up at the thought that many of these earnest young ladies had accepted violence as a reality in their everyday lives. We wondered how many of their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers have, along with our fallen comrades, made the ultimate sacrifice -- either as innocent bystanders in the wrong place on the wrong day, or in the proud service of their country.
With moments such as these in mind, we pause to remember that serving our country is a gift -- an opportunity to connect, to share experiences, and to share hope for a better future. Today we pause and remember our colleagues -- uniformed and civilian -- who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their countries. We thank them and their families for their service.
Tomorrow at U.S. Embassy Kabul it will be "business as usual." Because that is the ultimate tribute we can give to those who are no longer here, as well as to our loved ones back home, our fellow Americans, and those with whom we serve.