A recent Associated Press article highlighting how little attention is paid to American casualties in Afghanistan caught the attention of Will Thomas, 13, of McLean.
Will, who founded Operation Hawkeye, an effort to raise money to honor the memory of fallen soldiers who died in a deadly helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011, disagrees that the American public isn't paying any attention to the troops that are dying.
"I could offer many examples to counter the suggestion that we are numb to the human cost or meaning of this war, but maybe one will be enough - Operation Hawkeye," Will wrote in an open letter to the Associated Press, dated Sept. 10, reproduced in its entirety above this article.
"I was 12 when I heard a little over a year ago about the attack in Afghanistan in which 17 Navy SEALs and 14 other heroes died, including warriors from the Army and Air Force and a military working dog...(this) was the largest loss in Operation Enduring Freedom and in the 50-year history of the Navy SEALs. I wasn't 'numb;' I was moved to launch a mission to honor the fallen Navy SEALs and rally support for their families - using basketball," the letter continues.
Earlier this month, Will shot 3,317 baskets for 34 hours over the course of three and a half days to raise awareness - and money - for his cause. He has set his 2012 fundraising goal at $310,000.
Will, for one, is definitely paying attention to these deaths. AP Reporter Robert Burns took a different tack in this article:
"American troops are still dying in Afghanistan at a pace that doesn't often register beyond their hometowns. So far this year, it's 31 a month on average, or one per day. National attention is drawn, briefly, to grim and arbitrary milestones such as the 1,000th and 2,000th war deaths. But days, weeks and months pass with little focus by the general public or its political leaders on the individuals behind the statistics."
In closing his letter, Will wrote, "I don't come from a military family. I never met any of the men who died on 8/6/11. They didn't come from my hometown. I don't know most of their family members and most of them probably don't even know about Operation Hawkeye. But I know the men on that helicopter sacrificed their lives for me, for my family, and for everyone in American who reads your publications...we care, we will remember those heroes, and we will rally around the loved ones they left behind."