This week we were faced with a stark and sad reminder, America is still at war — halfway around the world — and her sons and daughters are still dying there.
“Fort Bragg paratrooper killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday” the headline read, a story accompanied by her photograph — her bright, young and proud face belying the grim reality.
She was killed Tuesday when her base in southern Afghanistan came under attack.
This was a much-decorated young woman who sought out tough assignments, and who worked to remind us all of the sacrifices made by soldiers, who put themselves in harm’s way to fight for freedom — to fight for the rest of us.
Spc. Krystal M. Fitts, 26, of Houston, was assigned to E Company, 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Fitts served as a member of a Female Engagement Team attached to C Company.
She died after being hit by indirect fire at a combat outpost in Kandahar province’s Zharay district, officials said.
C Company’s commander, Capt. Sam Perlik, said Fitts filled a critical role in the unit and took on an ever-increasing number of duties well beyond the scope of her experience and training, the Fayetteville Observer reported.
“She was attached to the company six months before deploying and immediately impressed those around her with her motivation, tenacity and drive to learn,” Perlik said. “Her dedication to the unit and support to fellow paratroopers will be missed, and her contributions well remembered.”
On the day of her death, on her Facebook page, she posted a photo of a soldier holding a helmet with a bullet hole in it.
The photograph’s caption asked people to be grateful for their blessings. “Remember so many have given of their lives that we have the privilege and the duty to make the most of ours,” the caption read. “We will never forget their sacrifices. Let us do our best to live worthy of this freedom they fought and gave their all for us to enjoy.”
We had another reminder recently that the war lives on. Just one month ago, in neighboring Laurinburg, we watched family members say tearful goodbyes to scores of National Guard soldiers about to be deployed — North Carolina National Guard’s 151st Engineer Company — people who live and work right here in the Sandhills among us.
We need to continually remind ourselves that we owe it to our returning service men and women to care for them today, tomorrow and in the future.
Phenomenal advances in medicine have meant many more survivors of today’s wars. It’s good to know we are looking out for their interests as they return from the battlefields, but also that we’re looking out for them as they age.
Last month, the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs announced it is opening new nursing homes to serve veterans, in Kinston and Black Mountain. The skilled nursing homes each will be able to serve 100 elderly veterans.
The new homes were built with funding from the state and the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department.
Let’s stay focused on the fate of our retiring soldiers. They were there for us, we owe it to them to be there when they need our help.