Soldiers who fight, suffer wounds and watch comrades perish often look back on war and wonder what purpose it served.
During World War II, thousands died battling over a few acres of French ground in a nightmarish back and forth that left trenches strewn with corpses. In Vietnam, U.S. forces died taking villages and swaths of jungle that were readily retaken by the Vietcong.
The litany of lives lost at war for no apparent gain haunts the annals of history.
And so it is with the war that the U.S. military fought in Iraq during the 2000s. After our troops finally, officially withdrew from the country in 2011, we all knew that the hard-won stability and peace for which they had bled could quickly vanish.
Chaos is sweeping through the Iraqi western desert province of Anbar, where al-Qaida terrorists raised their black flag over the city of Fallujah in early January.
Any American citizen who was paying attention will remember Fallujah for the bloody battle of November 2004, when more than 100 U.S. troops died trying to wrest control of the city from al-Qaida. Across the course of the war in Iraq, about one-third of the U.S.'s 4,486 casualties were suffered in Anbar. American soldiers fought long and hard and made the ultimate sacrifices to secure Fallujah and root out al-Qaida.
Now, the terrorists are back and in control of portions of the city. When tension between rival tribes and the Iraqi government escalated in Anbar, al-Qaida pounced to reclaim Fallujah.
Iraqi war veterans, including many living in Madison County, who fought in Anbar are understandably despondent over the fate of the city. Many were wounded, and many watched buddies die trying to claim the city.
Perhaps this day became inevitable when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq. The complexity of tribal politics and the history of thousands of years of strife could not be erased by a decade of U.S. military intervention.
That inevitability makes the current fate of Fallujah all the more difficult for Americans, especially veterans, to accept.
The ultimate sacrifice The following Madison County residents died serving the U.S. military effort in the 2003-2011 Iraq War: -- Matthew R. Smith, 20, Anderson, Marine Corps, died May 10, 2003, in Kuwait. -- Robert E. Colvill Jr., 31, Anderson, Army, died July 8, 2004, in Baghdad. -- Raymond L. White, 22, Elwood, Army, died Nov. 12, 2004, in Baghdad. -- Brian K. Miller, 37, Pendleton, Army, died Aug. 2, 2008, in Abd Allah, Iraq. Source: The Associated Press