By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Quick, tell me how many American troops are in Afghanistan.
Do you know? Even a ballpark number?
Right now, there are about 63,000 U.S. military men and women there, according to an article published Monday in The New York Times. Everett’s Richard Secor is just one of them.
It’s been nearly a dozen years since Operation Enduring Freedom began on Oct. 7, 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. About half of the Americans now in Afghanistan are due to be out by February 2014. That could still leave nearly 29,000 in the rugged country, although news reports Monday raised a possibility that no Americans would remain after next year.
“The thing that bothers me, men and women are being killed over there every day. No one ever talks about it,” said George Secor, 80, a Navy veteran who lives in Everett. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Secor is his son. He left in March for a yearlong deployment.
“Everybody has just sort of forgotten about all the troops over there,” Secor said Thursday. “As long as Rich is over there and they’re all doing their jobs — doing what they’re told to do — there’s still a threat.”
In his front yard, the elder Secor recently put up a flagpole equipped with LED lights. He and his wife, Marilyn, will fly their American flag day and night as long as their son is in Afghanistan.
They also display two stars in their window, one for their 52-year-old son, the other for their granddaughter Jessica Secor, 30, a nurse and Army captain who served in Iraq.
Richard and Jessica Secor — father and daughter — were featured in this column in 2010. At the time, both were deployed to Iraq. Before Afghanistan, Richard Secor was twice in Iraq with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. His daughter was there as an Army surgical and trauma nurse.
“Imagine serving with your daughter in a war zone,” Richard Secor said by email from southern Iraq in 2010.
Jessica Secor, a 2001 Everett High School graduate, is now in Kentucky working with a Reserve Officer Training Corps program, her grandfather said. Her fiance is a captain in the Army infantry. “He just got back from Afghanistan,” George Secor said.
He hopes the Army finds a way for these youngest service members in his military family to serve together. Secor knows what it’s like serving far from home. “I joined the military in 1951. I spent 41 years in the military, on active duty and in the reserves. I was in Korea and Vietnam,” George Secor said.
He has watched his daughter-in-law Lori Secor, Richard’s wife, shoulder work and family burdens at home in Everett. Richard Secor was in the Navy and Navy Reserve before switching branches to join the Army in 2006. After the terrorist attacks in 2001, he spent several years at the Pentagon in Virginia before going to Iraq.
His father said he is now at an allied headquarters at Kabul International Airport, where U.S. and British forces are based. George Secor is keenly aware of recent attacks.
“Last week there was a shooting and they were on lockdown,” he said recently. According to news reports, seven Taliban attackers wearing suicide vests were killed June 10 after explosions and a gun battle outside the Kabul airport. “People don’t hear about it,” George Secor said.
Flying the American flag is something he can do.
“Maybe it’s a way to keep people remembering,” he said. Secor said that whatever people’s political beliefs are about the war, “right or wrong, good or bad, the fact is they are there.”
And the flag stays. “It’s up till he gets home,” Secor said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.