The Cost of War

U.S. Soldiers Continue Patrols Outside FOB Shank In Afghanistan
Scott Olson / Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

During the month when Americans recall the horrors of September 11, 2001, it's important that we pause and reflect on the ultimate cost of war -- not in terms of dollars, but something much more valuable -- the lives of our brave service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the "War on Terrorism."

As of August 2, 4,683 brave Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) on October 7, 2001, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began with the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

Of the total deaths, 3,708 were due to hostile fire, and the remainder due to non-hostile actions (such as accident, suicide, or illness).

In contrast, during the First Gulf War (1990-1991), 382 American service members died in-theater, 147 (38%) of those a result of direct combat.

During the Vietnam War (1964 to 1975), there were 47,413 U.S. Military battle-related deaths, and 10,785 service members died from other causes.

In the five years of World War II (1940-1945), 291,557 American troops lost their lives in combat, and 671,846 were wounded.

The Army (including the Army National Guard and Reserves) comprises 48.8% of the total DOD force but sustained 73.2% (2,716) of the combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marine Corps (including the Reserves) makes up only 10.8% of the total DOD force, but experienced 23.3% (867) of the combat related deaths. The Navy (including Reserves) make up 18.9% of the total DOD force, and sustained 2.2% (84) of the total combat casualties.

The Air Force (including Air National Guard and Reserves) comprises 21.5% of the total DOD force and experienced 1.1% (40) of the total casualties. There has been one Coast Guard combat casualty.

The active duty forces comprise 55% of the total DOD force and has experienced 81.5% (2,820) of the total deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Reserve forces (Reserves and National Guard) make up 45% of the force and received 18.4% (863) of the total casualties.

Enlisted personnel makes up 83.4% of the total force, and experienced 89.9% (4,212) of the total casualties. Officers (including Warrant Officers) comprise 16.6% of the DOD force and had 10.1% (471) of the casualties.

2.4% (113) of the total fatalities were women, who make up 16% of the total DOD force. Men, who make up 84% of the total force experienced 97.6% (4,570) of the deaths in the two theaters of operation.

Among age groups:

Ages 18-21 -- 28.2% (1,325) of the deaths
Ages 22-24 -- 23.7% (1,108) of the deaths
Ages 25-30 -- 25.6% (1,198) of the deaths
Ages 31-35 -- 10.4% (486) of the deaths
Over 35 -- 12.1% (566) of the deaths

    Some in recent years have espoused that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affect minorities more heavily than whites. The DOD data dispels that notion.

    Whites make up 75.6% of the U.S. population (ages 18-44), and 67% of the total DOD force, but experienced 75.2% (3,525) of the combat casualties. Among the 18-44 age-group, Blacks make up 12.2% of the U.S. population, 17% of the total DOD force, and experienced 9.3% (437) of the total casualties.

    Hispanics comprise 14.2% of the population, 9% of the total DOD force and had 10.4% (489) of the casualties.

    Wounded in Action

    30,490 U.S. service members have been wounded due to combat actions in Iraq and 2,309 in Afghanistan (32,799 total). The Army experienced 22,948 (70.0%) of those casualties, the Marine Corps 8,721 (26.6%), the Navy 656 (2%), and the Air Force 474 (1.4%).

    The Army had 1,515 officers and 19,664 enlisted Soldiers wounded in action. The Marine Corps had 420 officers and 8,178 enlisted Marines WIA. The Navy experienced 35 officers who were WIA, and 621 Sailors. The Air Force statistics include 44 officers WIA and 430 enlisted Airmen WIA.

    Active duty personnel comprised 26,056 (79.4%) of the WIA, with 6,743 (20.5%) Guard/Reserve personnel WIA.

    The Army had 533 female WIA, the Marine Corps had 41, the Navy had 5, and the Air Force had 27 females WIA in the two combat areas.

    Whites made up 25,254 (77.0%) of the WIAs, blacks comprised 2,688 (8.0%), and hispanics made up 2,061 (6.3%) of those wounded in action.

    The Real Cost of War

    What is the real cost of war? On just one day in September 2001, 2,792 people lost their lives when the twin towers fell in New York.

    Military, political, and world affairs experts will long be debating the wisdom and necessity of the "Iraqi War." Was the invasion necessary to the security of the United States, or even necessary for humanitarian or other essential reasons? "Experts" on both sides of the debate continue to disagree.

    One thing is certain. The one thing we can never forget is the cost. of war -- any war -- is high. The price tag is not measured only in dollars. It's measured in the loss of the most valuable asset of all -- the price of war is measured in the loss of human lives.

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