September 17th, 2009
06:40 PM ET

Soldier: “Do they realize we're still over here?"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/17/cnn.team.with.rescue.medic.jpg]

Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

I remember shuffling through moondust up to my knees in Helmand Province when a U.S. Army combat medic turned to me and said, “If I ask you something, do you promise you’ll be honest?” I nodded yes. “Do people back home still think about us? Do they realize we’re still over here?”

I’ll never forget that moment.

Truth is, while most of America might know that 62,000 U.S. military personnel are in theater, they apparently aren’t happy about it. A recent CNN/Opinion Research poll found that support of the war in Afghanistan has hit a new low. Only 39 percent favor U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

But does supporting the overall mission go hand-in-hand with supporting the troops?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I recently embedded with U.S. Army combat medics in Afghanistan. I slept where they slept, ate what they ate, and followed them day in and day out. Their job is to rescue and triage injured soldiers at a moment’s notice. They are always ready. They even sleep with their shoes on.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that these soldiers were no different from the factory worker in middle America. Both work tirelessly in their jobs, both want to succeed, both want to provide for their families. And despite the echoes of mortar fire over their shoulders, extreme heat and no communication with loved ones – I never heard the soldiers complain. I watched the medics save countless lives: sons and daughters, husband and wives from all around the world. Why? It’s their job.

So as I looked in the eyes of that U.S. soldier – the one who feared America might have forgotten about him – I realized my job is to not only report on the medical military operations but also to highlight the courageous stories of those risking their own lives to save others in Afghanistan.

I am back home now…and yes, I still think about them.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Dr. Sanjay Gupta
soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. Susan

    Our men and women in uniform will NEVER be forgotten. The sacrifice you (and countless others) continue to make astounds me. I do more than think about you, I pray daily that you will be protected. I also pray that you will return to your homes, lives, and loved ones with peaceful hearts. Even in war, we must say, “well done good and faithful servants.”

    September 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  2. Carol

    After 2 tours in Iraq my son is home now but both of us still think of the guys still there and in Afganistan pretty much on a daily basis. I remind the politicians to take care of our troops and contribute to the USO and the DAV but sometimes wish I could do more. Let us know what you need and we'll try to take care of it.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  3. proud Army mom

    Having a son and nephew in the military ,who have been deployed, I'm constantly thinking of and supporting our troops in harms way. There are many organizations out there that show support to the troops. Take a minute and do a search, then sit down and put together a care package and/or write a letter and let these Hero's know how much we think of them. You are in our thoughts and prayers. We love you.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:15 pm |
  4. Katie Ferguson

    I was saddened to read that our brave, heroic troops even need to wonder for a moment if we have forgotten they are over there. I have had friends sent overseas and I never forgot for an instant where they were or what they were fighting for.

    A huge THANK YOU to our brave men and women that are defending our freedom! Freedom isn't free...may we never forget this.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
  5. U.S. Marine

    Well at least you have not forgot us, and thank you for you support. You don't have to support the war just support us because it makes a huge difference.


    September 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
  6. Just Another Engineer

    How can we not think of the war? Maybe it is because my generation grew up watching Vietnam on television during our gradeschool years. Maybe it is because we all have members of our families or close friends in the conflict. Maybe because it has gone on longer than World War II. I have lost count of how many care packages I have donated to, DVD players, chocolate, batteries anything we can think of to try and help . . . all the while feeling powerless to actually help at all. I am not really much of a mushbag, but I it makes me ache that the soldier asked you that question. There is no doubt that were are confused, as people and as a nation, about the war, if it is doing any good, it it is making things worse, if it is worth the death and destruction. But we are NOT confused about the troops, the hard work, the pain, the sacrifice. We remember.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:13 pm |
  7. Cathy Kvistad

    I want those serving in Afghanistan & Iraq, those serving at other military bases you are not forgotten. Your in our prayers even the church prayer list . The solder beheld by the Taliban is on the prayer list. To that solder don't ever lose hope. Our Military Team have not forgotten about you. Keep your faith up. You will come home just pray that it will happen.
    If I could lift up anyone spirits up with a card please e mail me at c.kvistad@yahoo.com I'm married and have served my country in the US Army. By the way this former Army veteran is a Big Green Bay Packer & Chicago Bear Fan. Those serving from Wisconsin. I'm from Beloit, Wisconsin. If we can help the family support units please write to me. For those who are wounded if I can make it through a fracture neck at the C, 4,5 disc. You can do it. I'm of you Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. I salute you Cathy Kvistad

    September 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  8. mother of Iraqi vet

    Even before my son joined the Army, I thought and prayed for our soldiers. I give them all so much credit for doing what they are doing and giving up so much for the American people. I will always support them no matter what. These people that have to protest against the soldiers are idiots. If only they had a conversation with a vet they would know what they are about and the hardships that they endured and the compassion they feel for the Iraqi children and all the other innocent people over there that really do appreciate the troops that are helping them. The media only shows the ones that want the troops out not the ones who love the American soldiers for what they have done for them. But I guess that's what sells tv. How sad. I think some people have forgotten about 911. The protesters are the people that would be the first ones to ask for help if something happened over here again. But the WORST thing is when they protest at a fallen soldiers funeral. They should walk in the families shoes for a while and maybe they would understand. How very shameful of these people. I could keep going on and on but I won't.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  9. A Mom

    How can we ever forget those who keep us safe and give us freedom on a daily basis. We thank you so much for everything you do.
    Please stay safe and be smart in what you do so you can come home soon.
    We all of you!!!!

    September 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  10. NM

    We will NEVER forget! Our lives are our lives because of them. We live in peace because of them. I get to be a wife and mother because of them. They are doing the job that only a certain amount of Americans are qualified to do. They are protecting their country. How could anyone ever forget? I think what needs to happen is that we the general public need to make sure that our soldiers know that we don't forget. Send a letter, shake their hands when their home, clap when you see them at the airports, attend their funerals if necessary. . I shake hands every day with people I work with. I can surely find time in my day to praise and thank our soldiers. Let them know that they will never be forgotten.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:10 pm |
  11. Patrick

    Former soldier here. Thanks for everyones support, I still support the war in Afghanistan, but we should go ahead and wrap Iraq up. Thanks to all my Army brothers and sisters everywhere across the world.

    P.S. We've never asked Russia for permission to fly in Afghanistan...dont know where you got than info. We only ask permission to fly into other countries airspace.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm |
  12. Pakistani Student

    I am a Pakistani female living in america. I have always felt safe and secure to be in American and I do consider myself a Pakistani American. I am thankful to all the soldiers who are risking their lives day and night for others, not only Americans but other civilians throughout the world. They are stronger and very brave because they have made the ultimate sacrifice. I have and always will pray for the men and women serving overseas and I make it an effort to teach my kids to always be respectful to those men and women. I pray to God that they stay safe and one day are able to return to their home and families. I hope they understand that they are always remembered, day and night, in the hearts of every citizen of the world!

    September 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm |
  13. Kristen/Boston

    The title of this story alone, brought tears to my eyes and once I read the entire thing I had used a handful of tissues. Yes we remember them. Daily we remember them. Or at least I do anyway. I pray daily for these men and women that they will return safely home to their families someday. Soon hopefully. Like many, I do not support this war (anymore) however do support these soldiers and all that they do. Hopefully you were able to answer this young man and let him know we are thinking about them and praying for them.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm |
  14. Let's be truthful

    I don't support the war, and I have a hard time supporting the troops.
    Get out and come home.

    I learned from the Vietnam war that our government lies and that the military industrial complex is destroying this country and hundreds of thousands of lives around the world.

    I was not surprised by the stories of the winter soldiers that came back from Iraq. War destroys people emotionally and physically. I support the winter soldiers. I support the soldiers who have gone to Canada.
    I have a hard time supporting the males and females that blindly volunteer to go and kill because a political party tells them too.

    We finally got out of Vietnam because the boys in the military stopped supporting the war. It is time for them to do it again. It is the only way we are going to get out of this mess. See the documentary Yes Sir/No Sir

    September 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm |
  15. Mike Franklin

    Speaking as a Vietnam vet the soldier does his job like any other. He basically does what he is told. Now we have an all voluntary force so everyone should know what they are getting themselves into. No doubt today's men and women get more respect then we did, but it is still not enough. The government does just enough to get by especially when we talk about the wounded and maimed from the wars. I strongly believe we should go back to the days of the draft and have all our sons' and daughters' lives be put on the line. Let's have the senators and the CEO's kids out there dying as well.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm |
  16. Kathy

    While I don't support the war, I think constantly of the young soldiers over there. I can only hope they'll come home safe.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm |
  17. David T

    I miss the war and the desert.. would go back in aheart beat..... yes we think about the troops. Everyday....

    There is a mission. Complete the mission..... then come home....

    September 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm |
  18. Janice

    I am from a miltary family and I will never forget we have men and women there. I beleive in our soilders and pray every night for their safety because if not for our soilders lord knows how many more attacks would come our way. They are the reason we have the freedoms we have now. God Bless our soilders and may they come home safely.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:05 pm |
  19. Mirek

    Hey Danielle,
    Clearly, there is a big problem. If the U.S. Army combat medic in Helmand Province asked you the question, it obviously means that we (here in the US) are doing something terribly wrong in conveying the message how immensely grateful we are for their sacrifices.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  20. Tori Edwards

    We think about our troops, pray for them, and try to thank them whenever we see them here at home. We're so grateful for the men and women and their families who sacrifice so much so we can live our comfortable lives. We know freedom isn't free. Thanks, Anderson, for doing this story.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  21. Katie, Iowa

    I would just like to thank all of the soldiers that are serving over seas and no you will not be forgotten ever. i have a neighbor that is serving over seas and has been gone for over a year and is suppose to come back next month(october at the end) and he has three kids and his wife is taking care of them on her own and i know that it has to be hard for her. I have friends that have served over there and i would pray for them daily and just pray that all the american soldiers would be safe and pray for no deaths. i think if the soldiers would not be over sea that the afghan people would be over here killing innocent americans just like they did on 9/11 the day that no one will ever forget.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  22. robert

    we will never forget thier commitment and price they pay for our freedom. freedom is never free. I have been there. tell them we know they are working and doing there best. we love them for it, and always remember them.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:02 pm |
  23. Lisa

    I think of the soldiers every day. I have a dear friend over in Iraq and worry and pray for him daily as I do all the soldiers. I hope they all make it home to their families and loved one. I thank you so much for your sacrife to keep me free and safe. May God keep you all safe and return you home safely. Lisa Hbg, PA

    September 17, 2009 at 9:01 pm |
  24. Leona

    I live in USA and it's so sad that I never hear people talking about the soldiers. I am not American but always think of them cause they helped my country and I know how hard is for them to be away.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  25. Jeremy Hayman

    I want to make sure that this particular soldier and all the others realize that we will NEVer forget their sacrifice for their country. We as a country need to do more to make sure they know that we appreciate everything they do for our country.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  26. Faith Goodman

    I think about the men and women in our miitary who are overseas every single day and my heart goes out to every one of them!!! Thank you for the opportunity to express my heartfelt thank and prayers for them all!!! My son is in the AirForce and was deployed and I know how much fear and grief is involved for a parent in that situation and all I can say is – I send my LOVE, RESPECT and PRAYERS for all our service men and women around the globe who are in danger and are serving to protect our country and the freedom we all take for granted – you are ALL HEROs in my heart!!!!!!!!!
    Faith Goodman, SC, USA

    September 17, 2009 at 8:52 pm |
  27. Rhonda

    When traveling through airports, I make a point to shake the hand and thank every military person I spot (the uniform does help me find them). The smiles I get in return just make my day. You see, my son is in Iraq for his 2nd tour and since I can't reach out and touch him and thank him for honoring his call to duty – I shake the hand of someone who has walked in combat boots just as my son does daily. Having lived my college years during the Vietnam War, I will never ever forget about our soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, seabees, national guard, coast guard.....sending packages, mailing cards, giving a hug, saying thank you is just a part of my daily routine. It's called being an American!!!

    September 17, 2009 at 8:52 pm |
  28. RogerJ - Renton, WA

    While we don't the name of each soldier there in these battle torn areas of the world, we have enormous respect for eahc of you and wish each of you God's speed in returning to your homes and families. I spent many years abroad away from family and friends and felt what you feel but was plesantly surprised to learn how many people, many that I didn't know, had kept track of me as I carried out my duties in the cold war days.

    You will never be forgotten.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  29. Karl Shipps

    Thanks for your continued support for our troops. People differ about policy. People should never differ about recognizing the great sacrifice these folks and their families are making as they go out in harm's way again and again. People who I disagree with politically lost a son in Iraq in 2005, and you documented their loss in a very moving show. They will always feel a great loss. They are great people. They should always be thanked for the sacrifice they made. We still have people out in harm's way, and they and their families deserve our help and thanks.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  30. Mike Col

    Every Sunday morning I fire up the old Internet and go to the Obits of those who have been lost (during the previous week) in our Foreign Wars, . The website links to local news sources which tend to give very personal accounts of the loss to family, community, and country. This is my way of keeping these lost warriors in my heart. I must state that I am opposed to these overseas missions (supported by the words of many of those who have lost more than myself), they cost way too much in blood and wealth.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  31. Nick

    i'm a us soldier in the united states air force......my job requires me to deploy with the army... we're gone for 16 months an come back for 6... i'm 21 married with 2 boys and the only people that have forgot about us isnt the every day person its the government... i left before my youngest son was born i came back an he was walking and had no clue who i was... i love my job and love my country but there is no reason we should be there for that long !!!!!!!

    September 17, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  32. Anne

    You bet we think about you guys and will until everyone comes home – we love you all!

    September 17, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  33. Megan

    i am in the military and have been over there many times. I struggle with the fact that the wars are becoming "norm" and the sacrifice made by the military is masked by complacency. your article is honest and speaks from the heart. Hopefully this'll revive some indifferent hearts.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  34. Will K

    For all the soldier's who are still fighting overseas, please remember that you are not fogotten. I think of you guys everyday! I remember what it was like to over there and how difficult it was at times. But don't think for one second that you have been forgotten by your fellow Americans. We are proud of the work you do and the strength and courage you have.

    Be safe, Be proud!


    September 17, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  35. retired MEDEVAC Army

    The men and women in our military are a great asset to our country and to waste them in a senseless war is tragic. I was sure we had learned our lesson after the Vietnam fiasco but unfortunately our political leaders forgot the tremendous waste of lives and resources that the war incurred and have repeated history.

    You couldn't choose a more remote area to put our service people in harms way, we have to get permission from Russia to fly aircraft into Afganistan!

    Our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors will continue to do a great job regardless of why or where they are sent but at a great sacrifice to their families and our country. Let's make sure their effort and sacrifices are not in vain.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  36. Thankful in NC

    While I don't support the war, I will always support our service men and women who work tirelessly and risk their lives for us. We are blessed for their service and I will forever keep them in my prayers.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  37. Bob Mayer

    Certainly. As former Infantry and Special Forces I think about our deployed soldiers every day. The problem is, someone pulled a slick one doing away with the draft. There would be protesters in the streets every day if we had one and EVERY family in this country could be affected by these wars, not just those who believe in country or economically need to be in military.

    Remember Vietnam? Not just the draft but the bloody images on television every night? Now we protest bloody images. I'm sorry, but that's the reality we put our fighting men and women into. We need to see it. It's reality.

    So let's bring the draft back, send a slice of EVERY American family over there, and let's see what happens. We're pushing our military to the societal fringes and they are the core of what is America– duty, honor, country. So let's make them the core. And if we don't have a draft started, then let's see all our 'supporters' of military age enlist. That's REAL support. Every Congressman and Senator, urge your sons and daughters to enlist to support the wars you voted yourself out of voting for.

    By the way– in case no one has noticed– the last war that was legally voted for the way the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution was World War II.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  38. Thomas

    I fully support this war, unlike the Iraqi war. This battle is against those that brought on our military action. We cannot let this go. This should have been our focus throughout. The Iraq diversion, which cost many, many lives was wrong.

    I support our military in this situation. It's the leaders who screwed things up.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  39. Phillip Sowicki

    As a Combat army medic of 12 years, I can tell you, I think of them daily. I just attended a reunion with my old army buddies, and the war was in all of our thoughts. So yes you are thought of, and grieved for daily. And thank you for your Service.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:36 pm |
  40. Henya,From CA

    All soldier are heroes but today our President did a wonderful thing he gave this soldier the highest medial that the Presidant can give,
    which easing been don in over 100 yr,
    So I want to thank soldiers for serving our country G-d blase you all where ever you are,

    September 17, 2009 at 8:26 pm |
  41. Vanessa, TX

    what a great article! Amazing pictures! I hope our troops know that we still think about them and those who have fallen..regardless if we are pro/against war. It shouldn't matter..these are people, with families.
    God Bless and take care our troops.

    September 17, 2009 at 8:26 pm |
  42. Tammy, Houma, LA

    While I won't speak for the rest of the country, I do realize these men and women are there, I do support their mission, and I do pray for them every day. I've been the family member and friend up all hours of the night because of a news report from Iraq or Afghanistan or the first gulf war. I've been the friend mourning her childhood friend's death because of an IED in Iraq. I've been the friend who helped put together his memorial at his high school alma mater placing flowers at it once it was said and done trying to figure out how this ever happened in the first place. Trust me. I get the cost of this. More importantly, I get the cost of not doing this, not helping people to be free of tyranny however it takes form.

    My dad trained boys to go to Vietnam. He always said the hardest parts of the conflict weren't the ones who didn't come back, alive, but the ones who came back to America hating them. Then as now, our men and women have jobs to do and need our support. We can let history repeat itself. Or we can be better than what happened 40 years ago when we turned our backs on our own because it offended our ideology. They are there, they need us, and we're pretty shallow if we don't take care of our own, especially when they are protecting us and what we value.

    September 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm |
  43. SgtMom

    My daughter just delivered a beautiful baby girl – her first child – last week. Her husband could not attend, he is stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Afghansistan.

    The staff was aware her husband was in Afghanistan, many thanked him for his service.

    To my surprise, one tearful nurse thanked my daughter for HER sacrifice for her country.

    Driving around a town that's home to Marines, I saw servicemen with missing limbs, crippled walks, faces and hands burned away.

    It puts things in perspective.

    Thank you, guys. We love you.

    September 17, 2009 at 7:34 pm |
  44. Stacy

    But does supporting the overall mission go hand-in-hand with supporting the troops?

    I can't believe we're still asking this question. Do I support the overall mission in Afghanistan? Honestly, I'm not sure. I'd prefer the mission be better defined. Do I think about the troops over there? All the time.

    September 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  45. Kim

    Support to win ! Wonder if any famous singers have flown in for a concert for our guys in Afghan ? We see you and thank-you for all you're doing ! Jitter bug dances for our troops in Afghan ! We're thinking about you here !

    September 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  46. Lisa St Paul, MN

    Yes! I think about the troops every day and say a little prayer for their safety every night. When ever I see a Military man/woman I make sure to thank them for doing such a noble job that not everyone has the courage to do. If any military person is reading this over seas, Thank you with all my heart!

    September 17, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  47. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Amazing pictures

    September 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  48. Teresa, OH

    I'm glad someone wrote an article such as this. Ya, we remember them and all the other soldiers everywhere and wish they were all back here. I wish you would have told them most of us dont even know what the hell we are doing ( meaning our soldiers) in most of these countries. Ya, we know the general reason, but if asked for details and specifics most of us dont know.

    Perhaps I missed it in the article, but how did you respond to this medic's question? Cuz, we all know what the real answer IS.

    I find it odd that you compared a soldier's job to a factory workers : )
    I liked it, though.

    September 17, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  49. Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI

    Hi Danielle,
    I am not against the war, I am for peace. Though I do not support war with anyone I do support and pray daily for our troops. I watched the covderage on AC 360 and those soldiers are still in my thoughts. I also ponder the lives of the Afghan people and wonder if they will ever have peace.
    Judy Stage
    Brooklyn MI

    September 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  50. Annie Kate

    I still remember they are over there and hope they will come home soon. I commend them for their professionalism in which they do their job; their bravery and self-sacrifice; and for the lives they save every day. I hate to read that they wonder if we have forgotten about them – never will they be forgotten – they are the best of America.

    September 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
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