Between Then and Now, They Did Not Die in Vain

3913733 B

Army Capt. Dan Whitten was a young West Point officer serving in Afghanistan when I met him for the first time.

One of his friends noted that he was outgoing and energetic, with enough personal charisma to mount a national campaign. We spent the better part of 2007 and 2008 together in Afghanistan, where he served as my aide-de-camp. Dan was the same age as my two sons and, as they do between people who spend nearly all their time together, our relationship took on many similar qualities. We kept a close relationship after returning from Afghanistan. 

In February 2010, while leading a parachute rifle company in Zabul province, Dan was killed in action trying to help evacuate one of his wounded soldiers. He left behind a beautiful young wife, a loving family, and a large contingent of friends and admirers. 

I have been thinking hard about Dan and his family in light of the tumultuous events of the last few weeks in Afghanistan, especially with the cacophony of voices pronouncing our efforts over the previous 20 years as a waste of national treasure.

Afghanistan started as a noble mission. I had the opportunity to be among the very first troops on the ground in October 2001. I remember very well the feeling of pride and patriotism as we boarded the aircraft from which we would parachute into southern Afghanistan.

READ MORE >

More From the BENS Blog

NationalInterest Congress Of Vienna Redux How OSCE Can Foster Peace

Congress of Vienna Redux: How the OSCE Can Foster Peace in Ukraine

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), like the Congress of Vienna before it, could help facilitate the creation of a new and more stable European security order.

The U.S. Army Honor Guard, The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon, and The U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own”, conduct the funeral of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 30, 2017.  Black, a native of Puyallup, Washington, was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he died from wounds sustained during enemy contact in the country of Niger in West Africa, Oct. 4, 2017.  Ryan McCarthy, acting secretary, U.S. Army; Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff, U.S. Army; and Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Army National Military Cemeteries; were in attendance and gave condolences to the Black Family at the gravesite. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

A Message on Memorial Day 2022 from General Joseph Votel

This weekend marks the most solemn of our National Holidays – Memorial Day. It is a day we set aside to remember our fellow citizens who answered the call of…

America dollar and Yuan banknote with USA and China flags. Its is symbol for tariff trade war crisis between biggest economic country in the world.

China’s Real Challenge is Not Military

Vladimir Lenin is popularly believed to have said that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them.” Whether he actually said it or not, the quote aptly fits the situation with China. Since 2016, Apple alone is reported to have invested $275 billion in China. All the world’s iPhones are Chinese-made. …

Receive BENS news and insights in your inbox.