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. shannon edwins

    For all who have not forgotten those that serve in the military please go to anysoldier.com and support a a soldier who is serving our country and show them that you care. Thanks a military mom who cares.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  2. Brenda from Georgia

    My son is currently over in Afghanistan and yes, I do support him and all of our troops. I pray everyday for their safe return. I will never forget about a single one of our brave soldiers who risk their lives in the belief that it is not only their job, but their duty to serve our great country. How fortunate we are to have such brave dedicated men and women!

    September 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  3. Kim Rodgers

    Yes, we know you are there. As the mother of sons and a daughter who chose the military, we never forget. As a family member who will deal with the aftermath of Iraq, and who knows how many other "conflict" zones for the rest of our lives, we will never forget. As the daughter of a Navy sailor, the mother of both an Army soldier and a Marine, we know you are there. We care about you and we carry you in our hearts. We can never, ever forget.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  4. Maureen

    Of course I think of you. I was one of you. I pray for all of you and know that you all have the strenth of the USA on your side. God Bless each of you and bring you home safely to your loved ones.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:10 pm |
  5. Retired Army Officer - Denver

    I think of our brave service members every day. I think this is a great question (asked by the Medic to the Producer) each American that values freedom should think about. If we value what we have, we will make sacrifices for it. Those sacrifices come in a lot of different ways.......

    It could be as simple as walking over from one end of the airport terminal to the other in order to shake the hand of a servicemember and thanking them for their service. It can be in the form of donations to an organization such as HomesforOurTroops or NMFA's 'Operation Purple', it can be volunteering at your local military installation to do something for the kids or families of those members deployed abroad. It can even be as simple as writing a small message of appreciation in response to a story on CNN.

    Thanks for all who have posted a comment here. I can tell you that just knowing that others are thinking about them, makes it easier for our servicemembers to get through the next day abroad.

    Keep them in your prayers and continue to make whatever gestures you can until the day the come home.

    Duty, Honor, Country

    September 17, 2009 at 10:09 pm |
  6. Glen

    I used to think the same thing back during Vietnam, does anyone care we're over there, because all we heard about back home were protests against the war. When I did return, we weren't called heroes and instead I got comments on the street like "baby killer".

    What made the personal sacrifice justifiable was the welcome we got from friends and family who understood we were in Asia to serve our country, because they needed us. No one questioned my father when he served in WWII, or my grandfather in WWI as to why they went. It was what any man did back then, you protected your country regardless of where it took you.

    That's why we can't ignore the kids over there in Asia (once again) defending our freedom. As Gen. Robert E. Lee once said, the best defense is often an aggressive offense. Sometime you have to take the fight to the enemy, so don't forget the soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever they go to take the fight to the Taliban. You don't have to like war, I don't either, but do stand behind our soldiers.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  7. Jay Ann Riess

    My son Kyle told me to read the story he had on the computer, he told me it was a soldier asking a reporter a question and he highlighted “Do people back home still think about us? Do they realize we’re still over here?” How very sad that the Men and Women who are serving our country have to ask such a question.

    Speaking for myself, they are remembered ever minute of the day, I was raised to honor all who serve and be thankful they have done so. In fact my son will soon be joining the many that have, do and will make sure we remain free.

    If I may make a suggestion, please go on line and sign-up with one of the many organizations that write letters or send care packages to the men and women who are serving. We must also remember the many wounded who would appreciate a card or letter.
    To send a card, letter or care package would only take a little of your time, but it would mean the world to the soldier who receives it. Let’s make this young man and all who serve know they are not forgotten.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  8. richard

    I served in Iraq in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2006, the first thing i said when i got to Afhghanistan was "do they know we're still here". That was the first time in my military career that i truely felt as if there is no back up coming. Its a strange feeling. Not a day goes by that i dont think about it, I will be honest i did not really want to be in Iraq but i served with honor regardless, but afghanistan i was passionate about, two months into my tour thats when the taliban came back into power in the south. NATO dropped the ball not the U.S.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  9. Sherri

    How can we forget the men and women who are willing to go over and fight for our freedom. how can we forget about the families that beleive enough in them that they send them off with a prayer and a kiss. We as Americans should be ashamed that one of our solliders should ever have to ask that question.

    The government may forget our vets when they come home injuired but we as the people will never forget them.

    Freedom isn't free...Someone has to pay

    September 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  10. Loving Our Army Life

    There are a lot of things in life that I don't agree with. The way we went into Iraq is one of them, but I do believe there was reason for it. We damn sure belong in Afghanistan after what they brought to our front door. That was a wake up call and like it or not, we answered. I can't answer one way or another one whether I support the war or not, but I know without a doubt I support my husband and everything he does. He chose this life, volunteering and knowing he would be sent places that others would never want to be and I chose this life with him knowing what it would also mean to us. He was injured in Iraq during his last deployment, we didnt know the extent until he came home, but he ended up in surgery almost a year later to repair the damage. It was a year of heartache, pain and struggles before and after the surgery, but I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else than with him. So we KNOW the sacrifices that have been made by these men and women deployed in OIF/OEF. I may not know the names of each and every one, but their courage and bravery will never be forgotten.

    " I am privileged to walk among the greatest of heroes, I am an Army Wife." ~ I stil love that! 🙂

    September 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Michelle, SC

    My husband is currently in Iraq. I think about him and our other soldiers there and in Afghanistan everyday. I appreciate everything my husband and all of our soldiers are doing there. Just remember FREEDOM ISNT FREE. There are a lot of people who dont agree with the efforts there or in Afghanistan. And they have that right because our hubands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and other family and friends are there fighting for us here at home. So the next time you are able to get in your car and go to McDonalds and buy a cheeseburger because you want it, look up and thank a soldier. Because without our soldiers fighting for our country we may not have that right.

    September 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  12. Serjio Brereda

    I still remember them everyday as long as have breathe... The will not be forgotten... What worries me the most is are we forgetting what happen 8 years ago when this whole thing started... I felt as if I was the only one to remember...

    September 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  13. jcow2

    I am the spouse of one of those service men. Today a woman at the gym where I teach told me thank you for my sacrifice – while at the time I brushed it off it, seems like just a part of our daily lives, but it does mean something to be thanked. I think because we are so far removed from the effects of war we forget the reasons for it. I will never forget the day America was attacked. As my husband and I watched the towers fall and the Pentagon burn I looked at him and knew he would be deploying soon. He did to Afghanistan just 6 months later.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
  14. KM

    My husband is a soldier. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and is on his way back again very soon. He leaves behind a wife and sons, a daughter in law and a grand daughter. If you can't stand behind our soldiers then you are more than welcome to stand in front of mine.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  15. Mike

    I have never forgotten these soldiers. But I think a lot of American people have forgotten why we are in Afghanistan. We need to get Bin Laden. He caused 9/11 and all it's tragedies. I think the American people thought that he would be found alot sooner than this and that's why they want it too end. The Bush adminstration had it all wrong in the beginning. We should have put 150,000 boots on the ground in Afghanistan not Iraq. Now Obama basically has to start from scratch and put more troops on the ground in Afghanistan to finish what Bush SHOULD have done. Please people don't forget the real reason why we are in Afghanistan. It's to hunt down a ruthless terrorist who would not be afraid to strike again. Just because we haven't been hit on our soil in the past 8 years again doesn't mean he won't do it again. Let's continue to show our support and trust the Presidents decision. Thank you to all soldiers and their families.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  16. mom

    I am grateful to all the soldiers and their families who give of their lives for this country. I do not believe either the Afghanistan war, or the Iraq war is where our young men and women should be. I support all our soldiers, but I pray for peace.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  17. Adriana RM Marietta,Ga

    We know that you are there and your cause is just.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  18. John Hickey

    Bob Mayer says it all. However, I would support a winning strategy over a draft. Unfortunately it appears our leadership is prone to splitting the baby for political expediency over decisive action. Does anyone really read history, even as recent as Vietnam? If the public doesn't support a war is it something we can do well at and win? Oh yea, the stock market is at a one year high; what was the question?

    We truely have a great country with great people.....can our leadership the way they are elected really measure up?

    Support the troops with intelligent leadership.....

    September 17, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  19. Liam

    Yes i thinking about all of our brave soldiers over in afgantistan. The men and women over in Afganistan fight for the everyday freedoms i have in my everyday life here in the united states.
    I strongly feel if if we do not fight for afgan people and to keep the current goverment it will become a safe haven for terrorist around the world.
    We just need to stay focus in what are mission are. We need to provide the necessary resources so we can accomplish our mission there.Do we have to remind the people in this country that master mind of september 11 came and trained in these country..

    Lets not forget the thousands of people who died a senseless death on that horrible day 8 yrs ago..Thanks again for those brave soldiers who pay the ultimate sacrifice. GOD BLESS THE USA.......

    September 17, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  20. djak

    I remember them every time I look at the empty side of the bed next to mine, and every time I pray for my husband's safe return.

    And I remember why they are there whenever I see a picture of the NYC skyline and the two buildings that are conspicuously missing.

    None of us should ever forget why they are there, and all of us should support those that go so that the rest of the nation can sit comfortably over here with their protest signs in the air.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:53 pm |
  21. deandra

    I dont support the war,but I do support our soldiers.They will never be forgotten.If not for them we would not enjoy the freedoms that we do.I will be glad when we bring our boys back home.God bless them and their families.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  22. DoTheRightThing

    I think about and pray for them every day. I wear a red shirt to work every Friday in honor of them. They are not forgotten. And the CNN opinion poll is (as usual) inaccurate – far more Americans support what the troops are doing in Afghanistan than CNN reports.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm |
  23. Appreciate You!!!

    How can we ever forget what are service men and women are continuing to do for us during wartime? I realize the tedious tasks we do every day may make our minds wander...but every time we look at a church, see women being respected, speak to an audience, and more...we need to remember how we fought for our freedoms. I am sorry I do not think enough and am not thankful enough. Especially being a woman – the United States is one of the small amount of countries where women are treated equally to men and roam freely without abuse, for the most part!

    Thank you again and again for all you do – we truly appreciate you!!!!!!!!!!

    September 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  24. Zane Kesecker

    I think people don't realize the danger of abandoning the mission in Afghanistan and allowing political and economic chaos to take over the region. While many people will agree that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified, hardly anyone objected to the start of combat missions in Afghanistan back in 2001. Just because we "took our eye off the ball" doesn't mean that we can just pull out of the country and expect nothing to happen. When the Soviet Union retreated from Afghanistan it created a power vacuum that eventually led to the region being controlled by the Taliban. What do you think will happen if we leave Afghanistan prematurely without leaving a stable government behind?

    I myself am an Army combat medic training at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. There are hundreds of medics here, most of which will probably be deployed to Afghanistan sometime next year. I have a bachelor's degree and I'm not here out of necessity. I want to serve as a combat medic so that I can be there to bring my home my brothers alive. And I hope to see the day that Afghanistan emerges from its current state of chaos to thrive in a bright future. But unfortunately that isn't going to happen without the armed forces of the U.S. and its allies fighting for that goal.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:46 pm |
  25. AGoodScout

    Bob Mayer-excellent points, however, I did agree with GW Bush that conscription is problematic. I've know both officers and enlisted men and women who would rather not serve along side anyone forced into service. Service women and men are exceptional, and I do support their efforts and consider their needs and wellbeing when I enter the voting booth. Praise God for Commander in Chief Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates, the fates of our service women and men are in their capable hands.

    We can honor the sacrifice of our military by doing our very best, every day, to preserve that which they fight so bravely for. Vote–your voice counts. Do your job well–it improves our economy. Be a good parent–you strengthen the American way of life into the future. Help your neighbors, known and unknown–good will and generosity will return to you a thousand fold.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  26. Pam

    Yes, I remember you. I will never forget you nor your sacrifice and I pray for you constantly.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  27. Mary Lanosa

    I have never forgotten the soldiers and volunteers over in Afghanistan.
    I wish I were young enough to go and fight along side them. It is our Government that has forgotten them, at least over the last 7 years they have been there. It is only after Obama has taken office that we are hearing and reading the most news ever. Is it a political ploy to remove soldiers from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan? Yes, it is. Is this going to be Obama's Vietnam? Probably... But as citizens over here at home we must not forget our soldiers over there. Thier lives are worth more than a political cuddo, worth more than someone's ego.

    Pray for them, remember them everytime you hug your loved ones, think of them when you sleep comfortably at night, when you eat, when you drink fresh water. Remember their sacrifices.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  28. Jane Johns

    Yes, we realize they are still over there. I think of them every day. My son will soon be over there as about 1500 of our Vermont National Guard is being deployed to Afghanistan.
    I agree with Thomas , this war should have been our focus from the beginning.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  29. c.l.rose

    In my family they are remembered, every day !!! I support our Troops til they all come home. A big thank you and hugs to our Marines, soldiers and sailors. Oooraah and God bless you !!!

    September 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  30. Mike

    A great many of us think about them all the time. My son served 15 months in Iraq Sadr city in continuous combat conditions, so I know a little of what our troops go through. Afghan seems a tougher war given the ROE that are imposed on our forces.
    I would rather see us use overwhelming force or give up and leave things to the Afghans. One or the other, not this current policy of proping up a corrupt goverment and policing the outback with daily IEDs.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  31. Gerri, Al

    As a retired VA Medical Center employee, I remember them and all that have gone before them. I had an older brother that went through Vietnam and came back somebody totally different. Mentally and emotionally he was never the same. He would sometime speak of his duties as a Medic and would cry. Then to come home to so much
    hate he could not handle it. He died a tragic death at the age of 25. I decided then I would do all I could to help our veterans and I gave them 35 years of my life as an employee and continue to help where I can as a volunteer. No we don't ever forget any of them. They are on our prayer list every Sunday at my church.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  32. rickymo

    I would have more sympathy for these soldiers (and anyone else) if they were drafted by our country. They chose to do this so while i wish them well and hope they come back soon this was a choice.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  33. Russ Stoltenberg

    God bless every one of those men in Afghanistan. And Iraq... We couldn't possibly forget them. My own son is in Iraq at this very moment. I think each and every one of us as Americans have some stake in these 2 wars. I pray for all of these brave service men and women daily for their safety and for them to be shielded and the strength to defeat OUR enemy. Because believe me, these people want us out of the picture and these folks in Afghanistan and Iraq are the only barrier from allowing that to happen. You know their already here. Hell, we read about it in the news alot more than I care for. None of us should ever forget one single troop or marine or airman or seaman that offer their lives so my other kids at home and grand kids can sleep in peace at night and so can I because I know their safe. Thank you is not enough.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  34. Linda in Michigan

    I hope you told that Army medic "yes, the American people realize you're still here". My heart breaks for those military men and women whose lives have changed forever because of their injuries. I'm saddened everyday to know their lives are on the line. I pray for them and hope they will all be home soon. I hate war but I will always support and remember our troops. May God bless them and keep them safe. If an address can be provided for some of these wonderful people, I would be more than happy to write them. Thank you – all service people everywhere!

    September 17, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  35. tom s

    You are not forgotten!!! thank you for representing our country it's more than just a job!!!
    SGT S

    September 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  36. Dee

    Great reporting. Tough question...BUT NO...we do not & will not forget they are over there. Each morning I pray for our service men and women stationed all over the world. And for their families and loved ones. It doesn't matter if we support the war or the reason that they are there. They are there. For us here in America. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU ALL..

    September 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  37. Jason

    Our Men and Women that are in uniform are never forgotten. As a former Army Infantrymen I can swear that there we remember and shall not forget what our military is doing for our country. I give thanks each and every day. They are included in my family's prayers over supper and each night before bed. Thanks

    September 17, 2009 at 9:30 pm |
  38. Patric Neal

    I thank any soldier I see or if I hear a parent speaking of their loved ones over there I tell them Thank you.
    I was in the Army back in the 80's-90's I remember when I was told Thanks.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  39. Shaith

    To the soldier who asked the question:

    Some of us not only remember, we'll never forget. You're in our thoughts and prayers, and your sacrifice is one many of us are thankful for.

    Whether you folks back home agree or disagree with the reasons for our troops to be in country is not relevant. What's relevant is that those men and women are our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, and they give their time, their service, and in some cases their lives to assure your freedom.

    So, to that very same soldier: No sir, we have not forgotten you. Come home safely.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  40. Kathy

    That breaks my heart, that soldier wondering if we have forgotten them. I am praying for them EVERYDAY. I hope these messages get sent to our troops over there. My son was in the southern tip of Iraq for nine months so I know what's it's like to have a loved one over there.
    Will someone please let them know there are people here that care and are praying for them. Thanks to all our troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you for your service to our country!
    A very grateful US citizen.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  41. David C

    I'm with Thomas. As a Canadian, I also think about the other NATO forces (pity the many Europeans seem to have thought that NATO was just to protect them...). Iraq was a disgusting mistake.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  42. Lisa McNee Baker


    This is how to pay tribute to fallen soldiers.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:24 pm |
  43. Marty

    I remember they are there. I live near Whiteman AFB and a lot of my friends parents are deployed right now. It's not uncommon for them to be gone for a while, but even when they're gone, we don't forget them. One of my teachers is in the Army reserves and we send cards to them to let them know we haven't forgot. My grandfather and greatgrandfather served, and if it weren't for those military forces, I wouldn't have been born. And I will never forget those that are serving overseas.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:24 pm |
  44. Kevin

    I remember being deployed when I was on active duty years ago – I was a Captain in the Army. I remember thinking the exact same thing – that people had forgotten about us, the mission we were doing, and the sacrifices we were making. I truly believe that America, as a whole, does, in fact, care about the members of the Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world. However, I equally believe that they, (generally speaking, unless they have a family member deployed), simply do not fully understand the full scope of the missions, or the enormity of the sacrifices that our men and women endure. I hope those that are over there realize that, while there will always be a portion of the public that blithely coasts through life unaware that the freedoms they enjoy are won from the efforts of those who serve, but that there are also many of us who think of you all daily, are truly grateful for what you all are doing, and look forward to your safe returns to your homes and families.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  45. Joe

    I sure as hell remember they are there. To the GOOD men and women who are serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are in my heart always.

    And I urge my fellow Americans to take a day to go to their nearest major airport on a day when troops return via the USO offices and cheer them as they pass. They are so worth the effort.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  46. Ezracolino

    I do not know what are you doing there. Not even Bush Knows it now.
    He lives now back in Texas, He quietly sleeps every night, While you have to bear the weather conditions of a country that is thankful you freed them from Saddam and company but at the same time do not want anybody take control of their riches.

    Most of you guys did a pretty good job, as always, America takes the leadership in the world and faces the evil governments. I feel proud of all you. Thanks for your time and sacrifice.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  47. Andrew

    I remember them, and think about them every day. Thank God they are alive and willing to serve. I remember the retired sailor who gave me my first job when I was 13 (I helped him make boat covers). I remember the retired soldier and ex-drill instructor (he was my boss when I worked over night at a retail store). I remember my childhood friend, he was a few years older then I was, he joined the Marines and served in Desert Storm. I remember my uncle who served in the Army in Vietnam. To that soldier who asked do we remember you? Trust me, I do.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  48. Lewis

    I was in Afghanistan with the Special Forces and I can tell you right now there is no way that Afghanistan will ever get fixed the way we want it to, its too rural, no electricity outside the main cities, people do not want us there. They have been through this a lot more times and know what they're doing. We would do missions and just wreck peoples homes and find nothing. We are suppose to support the people yet we do a lot of things that makes them hate us. Afghans are very simple people they don't want to be bothered and to the guy who said this war is right, is wrong. I believe everything was planned ahead so we could come here and set up the natgas pipeline and because of Afghanistan's geopolitical location. Now we have a very tough war on our hands that will go no where, the past 8 years we have been here I haven't seen anything that actually benefited the lives of local afghans. They have survived without us for so long, and you think were going to help them out?! Give me a break.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  49. Ron

    NO!, you are not forgotten. Overall you have been a very professional and honorable military force and I am extremely proud of you all and consider myself so very lucky to have you following the flag of my country. Your mission is a good one. Yet, I do remember the Vietnam War. We can't have you all at risk forever. That's what concerns me now. Don't confused our public debate on this issue with our support of you...and I think the debate will get louder. I hope more of you out there take all opportunties you have to communicate back home how things are really going. I'm sorry to say, the press, does not always seem able to provide the balanced overview we need to make an infromed decision.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  50. J.Green

    Bob Mayer, I liked your comments very much, and I believe you are right on target.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:19 pm |
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