The shock of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks reverberated around the world. In the decade since, troops from countries across the globe have taken up arms in a nebulous war against Islamist militants. The military in Pakistan, a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, has borne the brunt of that fight on its own soil. American troops have died and come home wounded after years in Afghanistan and Iraq trying to preempt any future attacks. Ten years later, soldiers and their families say the cost of ensuring their nations’ futures has been high - but they continue willing to pay the price.
For its part, the U.S. military has been called on to fight both the global war on terrorism as well as brutal insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are now battle-hardened fighters who have gone off to war several times in the past 10 years. For teenager Jen Huggins, in Fort Lewis, Washington, in the western United States, it has meant watching her father walk out the door to war at least four times. For young mother Erin O’Connor, it means facing the fear that her husband, Maj. Ryan O’Connor, may not come home.
For still others, it means watching your military wife or husband come back wounded. Sgt. Jesse Williams suffered a brain injury in Iraq and had to have a large part of his skull removed. For months, he was afraid he might not be capable of being a good father, a good husband, a good son. The American military is an all-volunteer force. But in times of war, that does not make the hardships, or the suffering, easier to bear.