As the month began, at least 2,176 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion that began in late 2001.
And the most recent number in that official count was a Marine from Waseca. The military’s description of the death is straightforward: Lance Cpl. Caleb L. Erickson, 20, of Waseca, Minn., died Feb. 28, while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan; assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Those may be the facts of Erickson’s military assignment and of what happened, but Erickson’s family, friends and fellow Marines know the complete story. They know that the world is a little less brighter now because of Erickson’s absence.
Those who knew Erickson described him as thoughtful, cheerful and generous. During a memorial service his platoon held to honor their fallen colleague, one of the Marines described how on the day of the convoy he skipped a meal to prepare vehicles and Erickson, without being asked, brought him a heaping plate of food. It was a gesture that spoke of his natural thoughtfulness — the same that convinced Erickson to turn down an offer to leave Afghanistan earlier. He told his sergeant that he’d go home when everyone else goes home.
Families and friends of every serviceman and servicewoman who has died in Afghanistan and Iraq know that their loved one is much more than just a statistic recorded by the Department of Defense. Not only have they lost the person who was, but they lost the person who could have been as the potential of these young adults is frozen in time.
Our south-central communities know what a toll such a loss takes. Waseca knows it. North Mankato knows it. Madelia knows it. Janesville knows it. All have lost young men to the wars in the Mideast.