Military families mark War in Afghanistan’s 10-year milestone
As the war in Afghanistan entered its 10th year this week, the families of local military personnel shared their thoughts on a conflict that has no clear end in sight.
Army Pfc. Corey Kent, a graduate of Mariner High School, attended one year of college before deciding to join the military. He was serving his first tour of duty in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded on July 12, taking both his legs.
Kent had been in the Army for just over one year.
“It’s changed everybody’s lives in the family,” Kent’s stepfather, Dan Ashby, said. “He’s going to get better, obviously, but he has a long road to go.”
Kent is being treated at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.
According to Ashby, an end to the war could be possible with some changes.
“I think that the government needs to stop tying their hands as far as the rules of engagement,” he said, referring to the guidelines American soldiers must follow before they can shoot at or engage a potential enemy.
” I think this whole thing could have been ended a long time ago if the politicians weren’t so involved in it,” he said. “Everybody wants to be so politically correct, and it’s getting people killed every day.”
According to Faces of the Fallen, a project by the Washington Post, there have been 10 people from Lee County killed in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as of Sunday. Overall, there have been 5,710 total causalities — 4,411 in Iraq Freedom and 1,299 in Enduring Freedom.
Ashby, who served during the first Iraq war, said the earlier conflict ended quickly because the government let the soldiers do what needed to be done.
“It was so short because they let us do what we needed to do,” he said.
Ashby added that his stepson has voiced the same opinion.
“He feels the same way, and if you ask any soldier, I think they would tell you, ‘Change the ruled of engagement so we can fight,'” he said. “Get it over with and get them home.”
Skip Mufalli agreed.
“We’re the only country that has rules,” he said. “They get mad at us because we say something, but they’re cutting our people’s heads off with rusty swords. Give me a break.”
“My son’s got to fight by the rules. The other people don’t,” Mufalli said. “They can blow up kids, they can blow up women.”
His son, Maj. Justin T. Mufalli, has served eight tours in Iraq. A member of the Army Special Forces, Justin Mufalli attended Cypress Lake High School, while his wife, Lesley, has ties to Cape Coral. Lesley, who is also enlisted in the military, recently returned from serving a tour in Afghanistan.
“I wish they’d let the military do their job,” Mufalli said. “Politicians hamper the military. They go by the polls and opinions, while the military people have to go by judgement and life.”
“They’re doing a wonderful job,” he added of the U.S. soldiers overseas.
One life lost in the war in the Middle East was Capt. Daniel Eggers, 28, of Cape Coral. He and two others were killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when their vehicle hit a land mine in May 2004. He left behind his wife, Rebecca, who also is serving in the U.S. military, and two sons, JJ and Billy.
“It’s been the greatest loss to our family, and we all think about him every single day,” his brother, Stephen Eggers, said.
Maris Lebid, the men’s sister, voiced a similar thought.
“I think we’ve all accepted it, but I think it’s still something we’ll cope with the rest of our lives,” she said
According to Eggers, his brother had hinted at how hard the fight could be.
“He had actually said it’s a religious war,” Eggers said. “That the Afghan people over there, they’re not going to give up. They’re going to fight until the death.”
Still, Daniel Eggers returned to the distant conflict with a sense of duty.
“He was doing what he loved, and he wanted to make it safer over there for us with him going over there and serving,” Eggers said.
According to Lebid, she never imagined things would end the way they did.
“When Danny was over there, me, personally, I didn’t worry about him that much. Doing what he did, he was so skilled,” she said. “It was a worry, but not a constant worry. I never really thought that would happen to him.”
Lebid thinks a U.S. presence is needed overseas, though.
“I think that it is necessary for us to be there,” she said. “Hopefully, soon we’ll be able to pull most of these guys out and bring them home.”
According to the Washington Post, Florida had the third highest number of war causalities in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as of Sunday with 270 deaths. California was first with 590 deaths and Texas came in second with 507 recorded causalities.