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Fight this war

Posted 8/25/2011   Updated 8/25/2011 Email story   Print story

    


Commentary by Tech. Sgt. James Fountain
17th Training Wing Safety


8/25/2011 - KANDAHAR AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- On Sept. 11, 2001, a tragic day's events set forth the global war on terrorism. If given the opportunity on that day or even today, how many Americans would do what they could to save the lives of our fellow country men and women?

Everyone has the opportunity.

Every American citizen can help stop the loss of American lives. It doesn't have to come in uniform, and it doesn't require traveling to Iraq or Afghanistan.

America at War
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has suffered more than 8,000 American deaths related to the malicious acts of terrorism. This number not only includes the 2,700 fatalities on Sept. 11, 2001, but also more than 5,500 American casualties reported by the Defense Department from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Although not acceptable, it's understood that the military will suffer losses in war zones. Assumedly, it is also understood that the attacks on American soil left most of the country outraged.

While some U.S. military members may pay the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom from terrorism throughout countries, many others end up permanently scarred; but, the battle against the hidden and often invisible enemy is difficult to say the least.

One of the hardest difficulties to overcome is to witness the flag resting at half-mast almost daily. In a three month span while deployed in Afghanistan, there have only been two instances in which the flag was at the top of the pole for two days straight. Although I cannot speak for deployed member's actions, checking the flagpole every day upon waking up is a common act and a topic of conversation, and in turn, it depicts the mood of the day. A full day with the flag remaining at the top is one small victory over a cowardly enemy that hides amongst the common citizen.

The opportunity at home
It's unbelievable to think that at home, there are more lives lost to drinking and driving than there are in battle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 115,621 fatalities from accidents that involved drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher between 2001 and 2009. That's 1,300 percent more than the number of lives lost during OIF and OEF.

For this weapon that has taken so many lives, the initiator only needs liquid before it's ready for destruction. While this initiator is alcohol, the primary weapon component is a vehicle. Most people do and are capable of owning and using both of these critical components.

In America it's legal to drive at age 16 and drink alcohol at age 21, but mixing these two legal items has been a major problem in the U.S. for far too long.

Everyone who is eligible to drive has to pass a written exam, which includes knowledge that driving while intoxicated is illegal and deadly. So deadly in fact, that if the flag was put at half-mast for every death from an accident involving a driver having a BAC above .08, the flag would have to be reset every 41 minutes.

In the U.S. it's odd to see the flag at half-mast, but if it were flown at half-mast for each drinking and driving fatality, it would never rest atop the flagpole during the whole year.

I'm not writing this to disrespect any of our military personnel, nor do I intend to take anything away from the lives lost during war. It is only a comparison to allow some perspective into what other options there are to save American lives. Some of these drinking and driving victims may have grown up to serve in the military, but their lives were shortened before they could due to someone's bad decision.

There are commercials, billboards and paraphernalia that reinforce the laws and programs for those who need help. I don't see how a nation that's so advanced can continue to tolerate offenders who do not use these help lines. What type of technology will it take to make it stop?
Our American brothers and sisters in arms endure many losses on the battlefield, and that should never be discounted. However, the question should still be asked, how can a nation driven for justice be so blind to obvious inconsistencies of right and wrong? At least our service members die for a cause: pursuing world democracy for the betterment of people. Meanwhile, drinking and driving fatalities leave innocent victims and their family in bewilderment for no reason other than bad judgment and irresponsibility.

All Americans can fight the war against drinking and driving. This fight does not contain battle armor, improvised explosive devices or even small arms fire. It's just one simple decision: don't drink and drive.



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