America's most hallowed ground had an important visitor on Thursday: Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Over 1,000 U.S. servicemembers have died in Afghanistan since our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, and Karzai got a first-hand look at the high price America has paid to rid the world of terrorism and give his country a chance at freedom. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen joined Karzai on the tour.
Walking through Section 60, where many heroes from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are buried, is an essential American experience that I wrote about back in January. From the seemingly endless lines of white headstones to the exhaustive efforts to keep the sacred stretch dignified, touring Arlington National Cemetery is an overwhelming endeavor that will fill almost anyone with both sadness and pride.
One American hero who recently lost his life in Afghanistan is Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz of Ramsey, New Jersey. The 23-year-old soldier was laid to rest at Arlington on April 20 after a tragic crash in Zabul. While it is not known if Karzai saw this young patriot's grave, he should be thanking selfless soldiers like Cpl. Jankiewicz for giving Afghanistan a chance. Instead of being brutalized by the Taliban and terrorized by the same evil extremists who attacked New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, young Afghans will eventually be able to determine their own future thanks to the United States, Great Britain, Poland, and other coalition countries.
Karzai recently angered many Americans by reportedly saying he would one day consider joining the Taliban under certain circumstances. Hopefully, bearing witness to the sacrifices of volunteer warriors who laid everything down to defeat this common enemy will help the Afghan president realize how offensive that reported statement was. There is no negotiation with murderers of women and children.