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September 18th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

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

By 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?”
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/17/medic.chopper.custom.jpg caption="U.S. Army medic chopper in Afghanistan."]
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 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 slept with their shoes on.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/17/cnn.team.with.rescue.medic.custom.jpg caption="CNN team and rescue medic in Afghanistan."]
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, husbands 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 I still think about them.


soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Doc Bob Meaders

    Americans step up the plate every day to help us provide better blast and impact protecting helmet pads to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don't tell ME they're forgotten. See the troops' comments on Operation Helmet website for their reaction to help from home.

    September 21, 2009 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Gay Thompson

    For information on how to send care packages to our deployed forces, look here:
    http://www.ourmilitary.mil/send_packages.shtml

    September 21, 2009 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jannahh

    I Believe This War Is Pointless. But Reguardless People Are Over Their Dying For Us. They Should Of NEVER Blew The Towers Down. I Plan On Joining The Army When Im Old Enough. And When I Do. Watch Outt. Loll. But I DIDNT FORGET THEM

    September 21, 2009 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lori Delfrate

    My 22 year old son has been serving in Iraq since May. There is Not a day that passes by that i don't think of him or his unit that is over there fighting for our freedom. Please remember even though you don't hear it as much as you should NONE of you serving our county are EVER FORGOTTEN.

    May GOD bring each and everyone of you home safe to your families

    September 21, 2009 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. A-man

    It shocks me how quickly our resolve to dismantle the organization behind 9/11 has diminished. Could the terrorists have been correct on this?

    September 21, 2009 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Steve

    I think about them everyday.
    US Army, 3rd ID 2002-2008

    September 21, 2009 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jody

    Yes, I think about our soldiers over there. I wish the media would talk about this war more.

    September 21, 2009 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Alicia

    I think about them all everyday. My brother is in the Navy on an aircraft carrier, my cousin is a Marine currently in country, and my husband is in the USAF.

    God Bless Them All!

    September 21, 2009 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. TLP

    I have never forgotten the troops and have prayed for them since the deployments began. Now I have a son who is a Marine. I do know that it brings it much closer to home, but I had always thought of the troops often.
    I just want them to know that they are not forgotten and that I think they are all the bravest and most courageous men and women. I appreciate their sacrifice so much.

    September 21, 2009 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Victoria

    We are over there to fight terrorism. We fight everyday so that all americans and non-americans can enjoy the freedoms they take for granted everyday. Don't criticize our government because you dont have the guts to stand up for us.

    September 21, 2009 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Lydia Green

    I am a nurse in the V.A. Healthcare system and work with many of the OEF/OIF Veterans. I remember each day that so many are over there serving this country with courage and honor. It has taken quite a toll on their lives, yet they continue to do what they believe is right. I support our troops.

    September 21, 2009 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lisa

    It makes me sick to see all the negative media that society is giving this country's war. From sexual assaults to killing innocent Iraqis....no one is ever shown the good that is actually coming from this war. Yes, people are dying, Yes our American Military members are dying....American's were all so angry at Bush for 9/11 and for what is still going on....Bush isn't even in office anymore and we STILL blame him. That's immature. People need to sit back and realize a few key points: 1) Think about what YOU would have done if YOU were President of the United States when 9/11 happened? What did you REALLY think Bush was going to do? Sit there? American's would have been just as angry with him doing nothing as they are having us go to war. 2) Seriously, Bush did what CONGRESS told him to do. Bush's advisors told him to give the okay on going to war. If American's are mad at anyone, it should be CONGRESS. 3) American's these days are ungrateful and always want something for nothing. Everything is OWED to them. No one ever thinks of the DIRTY JOBS that help this great country operate the way it does. Magical fairies aren't going to find Osama or get rid of the Taliban so that 9/11 WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN. The United States Military IS. History repeats itself and I for one enlisted in the most elite military force known across the world in order to help my fellow Americans prevent 9/11. We HAVE to get the root of the problem and If you're going to sit there and complain that the war needs to end and there no sense to it and our soldiers are dying for nothing while you're in your lazy-boy eating bon-bon's-get off your ass and enlist. Make a difference. Our Military KNOWS what they're fighting for and they KNOW they may die, but it doesn't stop them from REQUESTING to be deployed!! Our military is one of the proudest in the world! Our country was wronged, and we're all there to make sure the world knows, it will NOT happen again!!! Behind all of the madness is a purpose. It' s common sense. When the fight is over, our Military will be home until then, if you're not a supporter of the Troops, leave the country b/c you're no better than the ones we're fighting.

    L.D.H, Sgt, United States Marine Corps

    September 21, 2009 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Libby

    I don't personally know anyone in military here or oversea but I do think about all the soldiers every day!! I think about their family and espeically their littles ones how hard it must be for them and I pray that they are OK. I do think our American soldiers and wish them a safe return home. I appreciate my freedom because of them! Whether you support the war or not, we must support our American soldiers!!

    September 21, 2009 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dawn

    One person said many soldiers have been killed, for what? One man? As sad and heart breaking it is to lose even one of our loved soldiers, we are not doing this just for "one man" Although he is the one that killed three thousand Americans. Have we forgotten that? Do you not think it will happen again. They just arrested a terrorist here in Denver and three in New York, so are we just going to go back to sleep and pretend nothing happened. What do you think our soldiers are fighting for? To keep us safe. I will support every single one of them, even after they come home. If we lose this war in Afghanistan, be afraid...very afraid.

    September 21, 2009 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RCB, Father of LCPL USMC

    My son is a 22 year old patriot. He joined the Marines because he knew he would deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Noth Korea where ever he is needed. He wants to fight and make sure that the cowardly,dispicable act that happened on 9-11 will never happen again. He wants to be part of the best trained fighting force on this earth to destroy such evil. I could not be prouder and I wish I was 22 so I could do as he is doing and my father did after Pearl Harbor. Go Marines OOH-RAH!! SEMPER-FI.

    September 21, 2009 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Chris

    I remember. I don't support the war but I think about it a lot. And I'll say this: maybe those of us who don't support the war from a politicl standpoint haven't done enough to express sympathy and respect for those who have been ordered to fight it.

    But I have not forgotten. I see it drag on every day and shake my head. I think of the casualties, and I think of the problems many of the vets from this war will experience in coming years.

    I promise in the next few months to make donations in terms of supplies for vets. From the standpoint of not wanting our troops' jobs to be any harder than they have to be, and from the standpoint of respect for their families and the sacrifice and missing years away from their family, I will say firmly that however I feel about this war, I do support the troops as human beings I make a commitment here to become more active in troop support efforts at home.

    I would ask those who oppose the war from a political standpoint to do the same.

    To anyone presently serving who may read this: May you come home safely, and soon. I will not forget about what you've sacrificed...ever.

    September 23, 2009 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Patti

    We have not forgotten. Thank you for your service!

    September 23, 2009 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. J.M.

    I don't support a lot of the political decisions that sent our troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but being the wife of a former Army soldier, I sure as heck support the troops!

    Please be assured that we DO remember you, and we pray that you will come home safely to your loved ones – the sooner, the better.

    September 23, 2009 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Terre

    I'm heartsick over the negative blogs I have read. I cried for 2 wks straight after 9/11. And I cry every time I read about another soldier's death, but I know that they have not died in vain. Those soldiers' who gave their lives and those who went before them have given all of us, naysayers and yeasayers alike, the ability to live free lives in a great country. I have never forgotten our brave men and women who courageously give of themselves every minute of every day. My son is career military, serving in the Army. I am as proud of every soldier as I am as proud of my son.

    I am a supporter of SoldiersAngels and AdoptaPlatoon and commended them for the work they do for the soldiers. However, let's not forget those soldiers who have returned home and are in need. Woundedwarriorproject.org is a fabulous network that helps wounded soldiers and their families. Hireheroesusa.org is a great network that helps retired soldiers find employment. There are many great organization out there for the soldiers, but they need your support. It's another great way of remembering them!

    September 23, 2009 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mac

    I will never forget what these men and women have sacrificed for us and continued to do. Thank you is such a puny expression compared to the immensity of what our military personnel and their families have given. God bless our troops!

    July 6, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.