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Fighting through difficulties of war

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Tears rolled down my face. The casket was heavy and the slow walk up to the C-17's cargo ramp seemed much longer than it was. We all knew his name, but it didn't matter. He was an Airman. He was one of ours.

To say I was honored to carry the flag-draped casket of Senior Airman Adam Servais would be understating what all of us felt that day.

Serving as a combat controller, Airman Servais lost his life in southern Afghanistan, ambushed by the Taliban who have recently turned that region upside down. As we gently laid his casket down and the chaplain softly finished his blessing, everyone stood together, anguished and proud at the same time.

That day's scene was regrettably all too familiar. We had witnessed over a dozen such ceremonies in our short time at Bagram, Air Base, where this year has been one of the most difficult.

Afghanistan is a beautiful country, full of amazing people who have endured the ugliest of conditions for many years.

With huge mountains in the north and east that make even the Alaskan ranges look small, to the dry and hot south, the landscape of Afghanistan is full of diversity and opportunity. 

Though it's impossible for us to understand, that diversity and opportunity are what the Taliban and other insurgent forces want to destroy.

Who would consider rocketing girls' schools? The Taliban does. Who would burn 144 schools to the ground in just one year and kill teachers and students in their classrooms? You know the answer.

Because of the violence inflicted or threatened by the Taliban, more than 200,000 children have been unable to continue their education.

Roadside bombs and landmines take an average of 90 lives each month. If anyone questions why we and over 14 hard-working coalition partners remain in the country, they should only look at the atrocities being committed by the insurgents in that country and consider what would happen if there were no one to stop them.

While our forces engage in combat and support our ground troops everyday, other teams are winning battles without firing a shot. Across the country, there are more than 20 specialized teams who work with local villagers to rebuild their lives.

In just two years, more than 100 schools and libraries have been built and six hydroelectric stations have been constructed to supply electricity to people who have never used a light bulb.

They've built homes, taught Afghans how to cultivate food crops and trained local police to ensure they can keep the peace in areas far removed from the capital, Kabul.

These "provincial reconstruction teams" are composed of Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers working as one to provide some badly needed stability. They and our coalition forces are making real progress in convincing Afghans that America and other nations are committed to making their lives better.

I have a much greater appreciation for our efforts in this war and we all have a responsibility to tell the story. If you've been there, you know the real difficulties and importance of our work.

If you haven't, ask questions to better understand. In addition to Airman Servais, there are 3,065 very important reasons why we should.