As we gradually absorb the ramifications of the calamity that unfolded last week in Kabul, let us redouble our efforts to honor and support our military and their families. In 2011, Army Staff Sgt. Kirk Owen was killed in action in Afghanistan. He left behind a wife and two children including his daughter, Kylie, who now works with us at Fallen Patriots. He was laid to rest on August 15, 2011. Ten years later to the day, America surrendered Afghanistan to the same terrorists who killed Kylie’s father.

Imagine the devastating emotional struggle, uncertainty, and excruciating pain that thousands of American military families, like Kylie’s, are enduring right now. Thousands of Americans lost life or limb or were broken in spirit as they answered their country’s call to duty. Do their fellow Americans appreciate what they did? Was their sacrifice worth it?

Children whose fathers or mothers never made it home or later succumbed to their emotional injuries and died by suicide. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who cope daily with life altering injuries. Troops and their families who ask themselves — what was it all for?

The protracted, grueling, and repeated deployments. The inspiration, hard work and dedication of their comrades. The special life events they missed — births and deaths, holidays, anniversaries, and those small family moments that speak so tenderly to us. Was it all in vain?

We must remind them gently and respectfully that the answer is no — that the value of their deeds over the last 20 years can never be diminished. They prevented Afghanistan from being used as a staging ground for terrorists who would strike our homeland. The education, healthcare, and insistence on human rights — especially for women and girls — that American troops brought to Afghanistan changed a generation of lives and gave ordinary people hope.

And we must remind them that their fellow Americans will always esteem their service and sacrifice because it reflects what is best about American ideals. What is best about our society of free men and women. This is the larger and perhaps even more important point. Unlike every other empire in history, they fought not for territory or commerce or conquest, but to protect our people and to bring hope and freedom to others. Their actions exemplify the eternal importance of dedication to duty, to honor and to love of country. Despite our imperfect system and the personal cost, they answered the nation’s call and risked everything without knowing how it would end. History will eventually apportion blame for how our journey in Afghanistan did end. But it will surely laud the fewer than 1% of Americans who volunteered to serve our country during this long, difficult, and ambiguous war. Their spirit of voluntary, noble, and selfless service is the cornerstone of our freedom and the American experiment. Let’s go out of our way today to thank our veterans and their families. Let’s make a special effort to comfort those who may be in pain. And let’s forever honor those who keep us free.

David Kim is co-founder and CEO of Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. He is the global co-head of investor relations for Apax Partners, a leading global private equity investment firm with seven offices across the world. Kim is an honors graduate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Harvard Business School. He also served as an artillery officer in the U.S. Army where he participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 with the 7th Infantry Division. David is a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger and Jungle Warfare Schools and completed the New York City Marathon and Triathlon. He is married and has four children, two of whom attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His wife Cynthia serves as the volunteer Programs Director for Fallen Patriots.

Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation honors the sacrifices of our fallen military heroes by ensuring the success of their children through college education. Since 2002, Fallen Patriots has provided over $48 million in total assistance, including college scholarships and educational counseling to over 2,000 military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. More than 25,000 children from across the United States have lost a parent in the line of duty. Help today by visiting www.fallenpatriots.org.

Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times senior managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

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