Six thousand-three hundred-eighteen. That’s the number of American servicemen and women who, as of Dec. 27, have died in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn since the onset of combat operations after Sept. 11, 2001.

Six thousand-three hundred-eighteen. That’s the number of American servicemen and women who, as of Dec. 27, have died in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn since the onset of combat operations after Sept. 11, 2001.


That number includes those who died in combat as well as those who lost their lives in an accident. The Department of Defense meticulously categorizes deaths as hostile and non-hostile. I doubt families find solace knowing their loved one died in an accident behind the wire, as opposed to those suffering the same fate in combat.


There are conflicting opinions regarding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Call it the battle of hawks and doves; those who believe in not only rattling the saber, but also using it from time to time, and those who are vehemently opposed to armed conflict at all costs.


Regardless of what camp you find yourself in, the simple truth is that thousands of families have heard taps all too often. All that remains are memories and a carefully folded flag, perhaps tucked neatly away or displayed on a mantle – a constant reminder of a son or daughter who once came bounding through the front door with a smile on their face.


The new year begins with combat operations continuing in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq, thankfully, is over, and thousands of troops have returned to their families. But one soldier didn’t make it home alive for the holidays. His name is David Hickman. The 23-year-old Army specialist and North Carolina native lost his life on Nov. 14 when an IED exploded. He is the last serviceman to die in Iraq – so far.


He may have been the last to lose his life, but Hickman should not be regarded as a footnote of a war that went on for too long, often requiring multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.


Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer B. Domeij, an Army Ranger, was killed in Kandahar Province in October. He was on his 14th combat deployment to either Iraq or Afghanistan. According to reports, Domeij served 48 months combined to both countries since Sept. 11.


Hickman and Domeij are examples of the tens of thousands of Americans who served their country with pride for an ideal that cannot be understood by those who have never worn a military uniform.


Next time you see a soldier, sailor, airman, marine or veteran, stop and say thanks. And remember the 6,318. Sadly, in 2012, that number will grow.


Bruce Coulter is a retired, disabled veteran and may be reached at 978-371-5775 or by email at bcoulter@wickedlocal.com