CNN Senior National Editor
Every so often, I’ll be looking online for one thing when something else grabs my attention.
It happened again this week.
While researching topics that ranged from the federal stimulus program to food banks to the Census, I came across www.intheirboots.com.
I defy anyone to watch the videos on this website without feeling pangs of emotion.
They are heartfelt, touching, poignant, wrenching, sad and joyous.
For many (most?) Americans, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Unless you have a relative or friend in harm’s way, it’s easy not to think about those conflicts.
The pace U.S. casualties in Iraq has slowed (now at 4,374, with another 31,616 wounded, per www.icasualties.org while the toll in Afghanistan accelerates (now at 972, with 9,496 wounded).
The episodes posted online are a reminder of the toll war takes on the men and women who fight and their families.
These are first-person “in their own words” pieces, all the stronger without the voice of a narrator.
These are the stories of troops who have come home, some with physical and mental wounds that need attention, others needing to restart their lives in the civilian world.
These are the stories of wives, husbands, partners, parents and children on the homefront.
These are people doing their best to cope with challenges that most of us cannot imagine or understand.
“In Their Boots” lets you into the lives of families preparing for a deployment or a homecoming and of children whose mothers are deployed.
Others focus on the challenges faced by veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in dealing with a Veterans Administration that itself is challenged by the burgeoning needs of a swelling veteran population.
An episode titled “We Regret To Inform” introduces the viewer to Taryn Davis, who was 21 when her husband was killed in Iraq. Feeling alone in her new world as a war widow, Davis traveled the county and found other women similarly trying to steady themselves. The result was creation of the American Widow Project .
“A Good Cause” features three teenage girls from an affluent Washington, D.C., suburb who volunteer to serve the wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and defy expectations by coming every Saturday for two years.
A helpful feature of the website is that for each of the videos there are links to resources the troops and their families can use.
“In Their Boots” is a production of the Brave New Foundation, funded by the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund of the California Community Foundation. The Brave New Foundation probably would be classified as having a “liberal” or “progressive” orientation in American politics, but these videos are testimony, not advocacy.
Everyone, regardless of political leanings, should want to hear what these troops and families have to say.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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