Our Opinion: Making a difference

Monday, January 16, 2006

The men and women of our Armed Forces perform a wide variety of tasks, from making war to building bridges and schools. The military is a self contained society and often is called upon to take the place of missing pieces of society after a disaster or conflict.

These units change lives for the better and often do not receive the recognition they deserve. Their tasks are often more complex and the changes they are able to effect are more long lasting than the damage caused by conflict.

Unfortunately, the risks associated with their tasks can be just as great as those on the front lines.

This fact came home with a powerful blow when we received word that First Sgt. Tobias C. Meister of Remsen was killed in Afghanistan.

Meister was a member of the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade, serving in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom since the spring of 2005. Toby served in a civil affairs unit which was divided into two teams, each with distinct duties to assist in strengthening the credibility of the new Afghani government.

The CAT-A team Meister was assigned to was charged with bringing together tribal, regional and national leaders to discuss ways to improve the lives of everyday Afghanis. This work took part in Asadabad, the regional capital of the Kunar province.

Asadabad, located in the mountainous area of northeast Afghanistan, near the border with India, was a dangerous location to work. There, the Taliban, ousted from power nationally, still openly ruled the daily lives of the local population.

According to reports from the local governor, a roadside bomb was remotely detonated by Taliban rebels as an armored Humvee containing Meister's CAT-A team drove by. Meister was killed instantly in the attack. In addition, an Afghani employed by the military was also killed and two other soldiers were wounded.

Bullets and bombs don't know if the people they are killing are friends or foes, but the people who set them off do. It is cruelly ironic that whoever designed and engineered this attack killed someone committed to making their life better.

We are confident that Sgt. Meister was making a difference and we thank him and his family for his service and sacrifice. We offer our continued hopes and prayers for the safe return of all who serve.