This evening I witnessed firsthand the true costs of the Afghan war when I attended what is known as a Ramp Ceremony for four U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Zabul province today, May 16.
During the ceremony, the remains of the fallen soldiers were loaded onto a helicopter that then flies to Kandahar Airfield to transfer the fallen to a U.S. Air Force C5 cargo aircraft that is then flown to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del.
The four soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device, commonly known as an IED, that was placed inside a culvert along the main highway of Afghanistan while they were conducting a route clearance operation in the province's Qalat district.
Route clearance operation and explosive ordinance disposal are two of the most dangerous missions in Afghanistan.
But they also are two of the most important parts of a combat organization's mission, as they allow for Coalition Forces to move about freely and without fear of becoming the victim of an IED attack themselves.
Without the dedicated and brave soldiers who perform this dangerous task, we would not be able to perform our duties, and we are forever grateful to them and the work they do.
As dust whipped up by the UH-60 Blackhawk swirled around the hundreds of soldiers standing at attention during the ceremony, I thought about the families of those soldiers, whose lives would be irrevocably changed with the news they received just a few hours earlier.
They, more than any of us standing there, are now all too familiar with the true costs of this war.
Would they look back, years from now, and feel confident the sacrifices of their loved one were worth the goals of the United States in our operations here?
Beyond those families, will the American public, years from now, look back and deem the sacrifices made by the thousands of young men and women who died in Afghanistan to be worth the outcome of the war?
In the weeks since the May 2 mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death, many Americans began to question why the war in Afghanistan would continue in the wake of the death of the man behind the attacks that led to our invasion of Afghanistan in the first place.
These individuals were added to an already skeptical American public who had long since begun to question our mission and its costs in this nearly 10-year-old war.
The American public has begun to ask hard questions regarding our nation's involvement in Afghanistan, and what we as a nation aim to accomplish here.
I think this type of national introspective reflection can be a good thing, as it continually encourages our nation's political, military and national security officials to constantly find innovative ways for us to accomplish our strategic goals here and to facilitate and end to this war.
Ten, 20 or 30 years from now, just as the generation of our fathers did after Vietnam, the generation of men and woman who fought and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be in positions to make decisions about the potential involvement of U.S. forces in overseas wars.
We will have to make decisions that could send another generation of men and women into war and make them based on the conclusions we came to after years of debate as to whether the wars we fought were worth the costs that were endured.
Standing on that ramp tonight, as I watched the bodies of those four young men loaded onto the helicopter, I can only hope that when the time comes, our generation will do all that it can to prevent our sons and daughters from having to make the sacrifices so many have already made.
As always, if you should have any questions for me regarding my team or our deployment, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
(Weld is a 1998 graduate of Brooke High School and 2003 graduate of Fairmont State University and the son of Roseanna Filberto of Wellsburg and the late William Weld of Toronto. For information on Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, visit it on Facebook by searching Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul.
The thoughts expressed in this column are Weld's opinions and do not represent official policy of ISAF or the Department of Defense.)