Editorial: Many sacrificed to get bin Laden

Osama bin Laden is dead. It sounds like the wicked witch is dead, only this is truth, not fiction. We can only wonder how the lives of thousands of sailors and their families who have come through Whidbey Island Naval Air Station since Sept. 11, 2001, would have differed had Osama bin Laden been a work of fiction rather than a madman with brains, charisma and money.

Would thousands of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station personnel have served one deployment after another in far-off Afghanistan or Iraq, leaving families behind for months at a time, had bin Laden never existed? Of course not. It changed all their lives, and literally took some, as Whidbey’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 11 lost six personnel to the war in Iraq. There were other tolls, more subtle, in terms of physical injury, mental stress and family separation. The impact of 9/11 on one Navy air base on an island in Puget Sound is too deep and complex to assess, let alone its impact on the entire U.S. military. But it was immense, and it all stems from the fall of the Twin Towers, for which Osama bin Laden took the “credit,” or more accurately the infamy.

The news of the evil one’s death was greeted with joy in Oak Harbor when President Obama broke the news on national TV Sunday evening. There is seldom joy in death, but when a bin Laden or Hitler dies, it is reason enough for celebration. Particularly for those who put their lives on the line day after day, year after year, to see that justice was finally done.

President Obama credited a Navy SEALS team with killing bin Laden in a courageous nighttime attack on a mansion in Pakistan. We don’t know much about this particular Navy team, but every member of the military was with them in spirit and deserves a bit of the credit for ending the reign of the world’s most notorious terrorist.

This doesn’t mark the end of the war on terror. History might show that it’s just the end of the beginning. But it is a  victory for America, one made possible by the millions of volunteers who have served their country since the 9/11 attacks. Congratulations to them all, especially our own at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, for a job well done. Your country will never forget your dedication.

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