Kabul, Afghanistan— We all remember where we were when the towers fell. I was a junior at Princeton University, with a new set of Army fatigues hanging in my dorm-room closet. Al-Qaeda’s attack on America was the ultimate validation of my decision, just four months earlier, to join Army ROTC. We were going to war, and I would be a part of it. The nation cheered as our special operators made quick work of the Taliban, and I’ll never forget watching a soldier slap an American flag on the face of Saddam’s falling statue 19 months later. We were kicking ass, and the world was changing. It was our time to be Teddy Roosevelt’s “Men in the Arena.”
Ten years later, I write this e-mail from a war-torn and contested Afghanistan. With three tours under my belt (so many have done so much more) — and three years of war advocacy on the home front — my twenties, like those of hundreds of thousands of my compatriots (but fewer than 1 percent of Americans), have been consumed by events that emanated from that sunny Tuesday morning in 2001. Early “victories” in Afghanistan and Iraq slowly turned into protracted conflicts — testing the boundaries of our military capability, national resolve, and political will. Through it all, we persisted.
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