Americans mourn the dead in Afghanistan, even as media spreads

MIDDLETOWN, Pennsylvania – WTo judge the character of the nation, the media tend to gravitate towards its loudest voices, its most extreme measures, its deepest grudges. The result is a loss of all subtlety and nuance.

In the days and weeks after August 26, when our country lost 13 military personnel in a deadly terrorist attack in Afghanistan, something profound happened across the country that few national media noticed – tributes simple but meaningful to honor those lost American lives. .

At the Tattered Flag Brewery in that borough of Dauphin County, just outside Harrisburg, they have displayed 13 beers at the bar with an American flag in the center, marking the “Reserved” space.

The Fossil Bar and Grill in Russell, Kansas, did something similar.

“We wouldn’t have our freedoms without the sacrifices of the brave,” said owner Nick Buehler. “Our community has many brave men and women who have served our country, 13 beers honor these 13 heroes, but it also honors our hometown hero.

The decor of the table has spread not only to various bars and brasseries across the country, but also to restaurants, diners, businesses and casinos, as well as along courtyards, public squares and high schools. suburbs, towns and small towns around the world.

Last week, as middle and high schools across the country kicked off their first matches, hundreds of them found their own unique way to honor the 13 dead. In North Carolina, Greenfield Central Junior High tweeted that members of their 7th grade football team were working together to plan a ceremony ahead of this morning’s game.

“They placed flags on 13 empty chairs next to the field to remember the soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan.”

Independence, Missouri, youth court students and volunteers placed 13 chairs with the names of service members lost in Afghanistan outside the Old Jackson County courthouse.

(Photo courtesy of the City of Missouri Twitter account)

In Gilbert, Arizona, the Campo Verde High School varsity football team carried 13 U.S. flags on the field to honor the 13 fallen soldiers on August 26.

Kathleen Diggs, counselor and community services coordinator at Campo Verde, said the flags were then set up near the pitch with 13 empty chairs.

“The effort was 100% student-driven,” she said. “It’s something that they came to us with a desire to do.”

Diggs said what she sees in Gilbert’s students is remarkable.

“I see in our youth a desire to do the right thing,” she said. “It was a surge of compassion from their own hearts. They wanted to do something that would show they cared about these soldiers and their families.

In Independence, MT, youth court students and volunteers included 13 chairs with the names of service members lost in Afghanistan outside the Old Jackson County courthouse.

A Virginia Beach Starbucks placed 13 cups of coffee on a table to honor the dead with a note that read, “This table is for the 13 soldiers lost in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021.”

These are not unique pieces – placed there for a day and then disappeared. Many of them all over the country are still staying now.

Too often, we let others define who we are, especially those with the loudest megaphones, or worse yet, those with the most access to power. Worse yet, cultural conservatives who have its wealth and power use it to convey the image of an America that for the most part does not exist.


Tattered Flag Brewery in Dauphin County, Pa. Showcased 13 beers at the bar and marked the “placeholder” space to honor fallen service members.

(Photo courtesy of the Tattered Flag Brewery Facebook page).

I would say that these gestures of mourning are not at all gestures but signs of the character of a nation. They are not a photoshoot but a sign of the constant compassion within us, just below the surface – an expression of our exceptionalism waiting to emerge.

As a people, we are always looking for ways to come together, to cover the loudest voices that are trying to divide us. We are not the NFL that now presents two national anthems, but the people who have raised children who want to show their support for those who protect us by honoring them with empty seats or hoisting the American flag without disrespecting it.

The media moved the conversation off the front pages. But what happened and what continues to happen in Afghanistan has left a mark on the American psyche. It cuts across political ideologies, race, and socio-economic fronts – a mark that the loudest voices have failed to see.

Many in the media mistakenly believe that people are now unhappy with Afghanistan because of politics or because they thought we should have stayed. They think this is all going to go away because they stopped covering it up. They believe Americans will turn away from imagery of battered Afghan women to demand their rights or of American citizens trapped, helpless, in what can only be described as hellish existence.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

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