Marshall Hogue hopes today — the 16th anniversary of terrorist attacks on the United States — serves as a reminder of why the United States is at war with terrorism, as well as a somber remembrance.
“I think we have to remember it to realize why we are doing what we’re doing,” said Hogue, of Joplin, Mo., a major in the U.S. Army Reserves who served in Iraq in 2005-2006.
“I’ve got children who are graduating high school this year that don’t remember that happening, so if we don’t have a day of remembrance to understand that, we don’t understand the current landscape of the world that we live in today. Because the truth of the matter is even though that’s (16) years ago, that seems like it was a long time ago, we’re still dealing with the ramifications of that event. We can’t just say that’s ancient history because it was two decades ago because we’re still fighting that fight.”
The four coordinated attacks on the United States carried out 16 years ago today left nearly 3,000 Americans dead and 6,000 wounded. Since that time, Americans have been at war in Afghanistan and in Iraq since 2003, and approximately 6,000 Americans have died and more than 50,000 have been wounded. The most recent deaths were reported last month, killed fighting the affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, and during combat operations in Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans also have died since 9/11.
Although Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida founder and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden have been killed in the years since, more than 10,000 U.S. troops still occupy Afghanistan, and more are expected to join them soon. Thousands more U.S. troops also remain on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
President Donald Trump, in a speech last month, said America is “not nation-building again,” but he maintained a commitment to an intentionally unspecified military presence in the region to continue the war against terrorism.
“The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable,” he said. “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.”
On the anniversary of the attack, the Joplin Globe interviewed veterans and the family of one man who was killed in Afghanistan, asking for their perspective on the best course forward.
Now a financial adviser in Joplin, Hogue is also a 22-year U.S. Army veteran. He said he sees the U.S. presence in the region as a two-part mission: dismantling the al-Qaida terrorist network and stabilizing Afghanistan.
Hogue, though acknowledging the length of the American occupation, stressed the importance of patience in attempting to establish a democratic republic in a country like Afghanistan.
“The hard thing is taking a country that’s not even a Third World country and moving them up to Third World status,” he said. “And so when you look at building Afghanistan up, that’s the hard task.”
American troops remained in Germany and Japan for decades after World War II.
“And so those countries were not Third World countries, they were First World countries when we occupied them — (a) lot easier to build them up,” he said.
Hogue also said the United States should not continue to dedicate military resources -- or service members’ lives — “if it’s no longer a viable win,” but he believes exiting the region will create an opportunity for extremist groups to seize power.
“If we pull out now and there’s a vacuum of power, it will be filled,” he said. “It will not be filled with anybody we like.”
Joplin resident Brandon Hunter said this year marked the 10th anniversary of his U.S. Marine Corps deployment to the Middle East. He said he is largely still in the mold of a Marine: “Do your job,” but considering the issue, he said he doesn’t see a good answer.
“At this point, for me, I’m not sure if what is happening can actually be stopped,” he said. “I don’t know anymore. It would be easy to wave my flag and yell ‘Freedom,’ but I’ve started to see that as a cop-out in a way. Yes, we stop bad people from coming over here and doing bad things, but at what cost?”
Especially in the course of their service, Hunter said he and his fellow Marines were focused on returning to the United States.
“We were there to do our job and to make sure we all got home together,” he said. “To survive.”
Edward Dixon Jr.
The Joplin chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart is continuing to raise money for memorial signs along Missouri Highway 249 to honor Edward Dixon III, a Joplin man who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
Less than two years shy of reaching retirement eligibility in the U.S. Army, Dixon drowned when an armored vehicle he was in flipped over while crossing a river on a scouting mission. His father, Edward Dixon Jr., who also served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, said he isn’t bitter over his son’s death.
“He was doing what he wanted to do,” the father said. “I mean, I can’t condemn him for it and I can’t condemn anybody for it. You know, it’s part of being in the military. You can’t join the military, even in peacetime, and not expect a degree of danger.”
Even so, he said he has begun to see withdrawal from the region as the United States’ best option.
“The Sunnis and the Shia have been fighting ever since the death of Muhammad, and they will continue to fight,” he said. “Before we entered Afghanistan, the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan, and they were there for seven years, and even with their might they couldn’t tame the country, they had to pull out. And they were more ruthless than we’ll ever think of being.”