While most Americans are eager to put the era of Iraq and Afghanistan behind them, our men and women in uniform don't get such leisure. They must, under increasingly difficult budget conditions, continue training for the next mission. That goes double for the men of U.S. Special Operations Command. Less well-known than the SEALs or Delta Force, yet a crucial element of special operations, are the U.S. Air Force's special tactics air commandos. They are often the first inserted into enemy territory, where they prepare landing sites, direct air traffic, and provide air cover during operations - all while shouldering a rifle and fighting alongside their fellow special operators.
In late February, one of America's air commandos made the ultimate sacrifice, but not on the battlefield. While doing parachute training, Master Sergeant Joshua Gavulic died in an accident in Arizona. Service members die during training all the time; it is one of the least understood hazards of serving in the military. Yet the terrible irony of MSgt. Gavulic's death is how much death he had avoided in battle. It is incomprehensible to me, as it is to most civilians, to learn that MSgt. Gavulic deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan ten times. As a tactical air controller, he was put into the very thick of the worst fighting, directing air cover for special operators often while under intense fire. Ten times he spent months fighting America's worst enemies, and came home each time. Came home to his wife and six children. And then went back out training, preparing for the next mission. Now, he deploys and trains no more.
It will take years to understand the human costs of over a dozen years of war on the less than 1 percent of the American population that waged it. Men such as MSgt Josh Gavulic are living lives so completely different from the rest of us that there are few ways we can show our understanding and thanks.
One way, however, is to help those they loved. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is one of the worthiest charities that supports the families of those who have fought hardest on our behalf. Their mission is simple:
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation ensures full scholarship grants as well as educational and family counseling to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty and immediate financial assistance for severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.
With the organization earning a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, those who choose to help the families of our fallen special operators can be assured their donations go to those in need, and not to administrative overhead. MSgt. Josh Gavulic served his country with honor and gave his life for our freedoms. Helping his children, and those of other fallen warriors, is perhaps the best way to show our gratitude.