Secure Families Initiative Board of Advisors President Heather Aliano wrote an essay for the Just Security Symposium on the 20th anniversary of September 11th. “How Perpetual War Has Changed Us” is a deeply personal reflection on the impacts of twenty years of war on service members and military families.
“Our military has been at war for 20 years. My husband has served for all 20 of them. We began our military family journey with optimism, pride, and a fighting spirit, but none of us truly knew what it would be like to serve in a wartime military. It’s only after enduring the worst of a never-ending war, the constant demand to push harder, and the stigma attached to not always being in fighting form that our enthusiasm has been weakened. The last 20 years of war have taken our country’s most patriotic public servants and ground them down into dust.
While there is much talk today about the tragic end of the war in Afghanistan and turning the page, the demand on our troops is far from over. There is no clear end in sight, and with threats that persist around the world, there will be hard decisions to be made at all levels of leadership. Military families have lived with the direct impact of “forever wars” for 20 years and will continue to do so for a lifetime. War is not something you can take off and hang up like an old hat. It takes up residence within you.”