The war in Afghanistan is the longest in the nation's long history, and one way to measure its length is by how long it has been since Berkshire County was first impacted by it. When Army Sergeant Daniel Petithory, Jr. of Cheshire was killed there on December 5, 2001, the World Trade Center was still a smoldering ruin in lower Manhattan, a fresh wound of the terrorist attacks by al-Qaida that triggered the war in Afghanistan.
U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Roger W. Muchnick, Jr. was one of eight Marines killed March 18 when a mortar shell exploded in its firing tube during a winter training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, a site chosen, according to the depot website, because the mountainous desert terrain provides a "realistic simulation of the situation in Afghanistan." It is a much different war now than it was 12 years ago, but American soldiers are still there or poised to go there as the United States. tries to leave behind a secure country when it withdraws in 2014.
Mr. Muchnick was a grandson of Lenox residents Robert and Mary Ann Coakley, members of a deep-rooted county family that is known and respected throughout the Berkshires. Roger grew up in Westport, Connecticut, and as state Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lenox recalled in Thursday's Eagle, would as a young man come to the Berkshires and enjoy life on the Coakley family farm. Mr. Muchnick will be honored this morning with a service at St. Ann Catholic Church on Main Street in Lenox.
Last August, U.S. Army Specialist Michael R. DeMarsico of North Adams was killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device, a common weapon in modern warfare. The war in Afghanistan frequently slides out of the public consciousness, and unfortunately it takes the death of a soldier there to bring it back to the foreground in all its brutality.
The Coakley family felt this pain before, in 1966, when Robert Coakley's brother, Navy Lieutenant Commander William Coakley, was shot down over North Vietnam on the 44th mission he piloted. That war, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, grew unpopular because of politics, which doesn't lessen the impact of the deaths of those who bravely fight them.