Troops at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson last week honored Spec. Jeffrey Lee White Jr., 21, who was killed in Afghanistan last month by an improvised explosive device.
White, of Catawissa, Mo., served with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at JBER. He apparently had been due to come home for leave a week after he was killed.
White is the 169th Alaskan or Alaska-based soldier killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003.
Alaska lives closer to the military than most states. Large active bases, Army and Air Guard forces and the fact that we have the nation's highest per captia population of veterans keeps Alaskans more aware of and in tune with our troops.
We're less likely to suffer the "disconnect" described by one U.S. soldier interviewed by a BBC reporter in a National Public Radio report. He said that when he came home from Afghanistan on leave, he found some in his own age group, 18-24, surprised to learn there was still a war going on in Afghanistan.
Troops of the 4th Brigade are among those from Alaska and bases around the country now deployed in what the BBC called a mission sometimes at odds with itself. They must fight, train Afghans and wind down all at the same time, and all the while knowing that the goal is to get out after more than 10 years at war in Afghanistan.
This is hard duty, beyond the real comprehension of most of us. If we don't share the burden of military families we should at least recognize and remember their reality, and not let our thank-yous for service become rote and perfunctory.
There was nothing perfunctory about Spc. Jeffrey Lee White's service. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends.