Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On Sept. 12, remember sacrifices made by America's diplomats

They serve their country while selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way.

No, they’re not first responders or military personnel, they’re America’s foreign service officers (FSO’s), who serve our country in places ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Sadly, we are reminded of their willingness to sacrifice by the recent deaths of four FSO’s, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya. It is especially poignant that their deaths occurred on September 11th.

As a multiple State Department grantee, I have had the honor and privilege of working with dozens of FSO’s in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Kenya, and Uganda. One would be hard pressed to find a group more uniformly bright, motivated, and energetic. Their jobs may appear glamorous to some, but a closer look reveals the kinds of sacrifices for which others might receive medals. These sacrifices include routine 10-12 hour days; months and years spent away from loved ones; inserting children into challenging environments; worries about safety and security; and living in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. I’ll never forget one report I read about embassy personnel in one dangerous country having to make their monthly journey to the beach in a heavily fortified caravan protected by Marines.

The only explanation for these kinds of sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice made by the FSO’s in Libya, is that these individuals feel a strong desire to serve their country, and indeed to serve humanity.

As we mourn the State Department personnel who were doing our country’s diplomatic heavy lifting, let us never forget the invaluable service that all FSO’s perform for America and the world.

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