Monday May 20, 2013

This past Friday, while Marine Corps veteran Edward S. Passetto was laid to rest in Lee, Dalton was coming to grips with the death of Army Specialist Mitchell Daehling. The day constituted the latest harsh reminder for Berkshire residents of the toll taken by foreign wars.

Mr. Daehling was one of three soldiers killed in Afghanistan last Tuesday by an improvised explosive device. While U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is winding down, attacks by insurgents have stepped up in recent weeks, a response thought to be at least in part due to the ongoing talks between the United States and Afghanistan about an American security presence after the combat mission ends in 2014. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, which in typical fashion did not involve a traditional battle but was accomplished by a roadside bomb hidden from the sight of passing Americans.

A 2006 graduate of Wahconah Regional High School, Mr. Daehling joined the Army in 2010 because, as his father, Kirk, told The Eagle, "He just felt that this was something he needed to do. It was important." That motivation is undoubtedly shared by many U.S. soldiers who have fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other wars past through the decades. Much is owed these soldiers regardless of what anyone thinks of the policies and policy-makers behind these wars.

A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Passetto was owed far more than he received from his nation. Mr. Passetto, who was 28, four years older than Mr. Daehling, returned from Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and after two years of trying to persuade the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to approve his claim for disability benefits, he succumbed to suicide earlier this month.

Edward Passetto was buried with full military honors in Lee on Friday, and Mitchell Daehling will be similarly honored. The nation should fully appreciate the sacrifices of both soldiers and many thousands of others, and it can best show this appreciation by assuring that every soldier receives what he or she is due -- without having to wage another fight against the bureaucracy to receive it.