When the final bell rings

In mixed martial arts, as in boxing, the ringing of a bell signifies either the start or end of a contested bout.  On 9-11, America heard a bell which signified the start of a long, brutal bout against our enemy.  U.S. forces expeditiously deployed to far-off lands only to find themselves walking in their own valley of death. 

The war in Iraq has officially ended, and Afghanistan will follow, but how will America drive forward, knowing that the War on Terror's final bell will soon be rung?

America is filled with patriots -- citizens consumed with the utmost pride.  During the heat of battle, we rightly demonize our enemy, similar to the way mixed martial artists demonize their opponents.  The difference between the professional athlete and us is the fact that the fighters, after their bout, are forced to shake hands.  More often than not, immediately following the sound of the closing bell, both winner and loser smile at one another, give a pat on the back, and even say "great fight!"

War is different.  No one can be expected to simply drop his arms and embrace his opponent as a newly respected human being.  Too many lives were lost, too much pain endured, and too many tears will continue to flow -- but wouldn't it be nice if it were as easy as the professional MMA fighters make it out to be?

As a child, I remember hearing songs sung about the Germans and Japanese being some evil, barbaric people.  Today, America recognizes such persons as partners and trusted allies.  I guess this is the magic of time, but will that magic ever take hold regarding today's situation?

Each and every one of us will need his or her own amount of time to deal with the pain of the past several years.  Some will recover faster than others, and a few may never recover at all.  And while we shall never forget, we should do everything in our power to heal ourselves, if that's even possible.

Professional athletes do this all the time.  America succeeded in doing this with the Germans and the Japanese.  Hopefully, with the magic of time, we will one day be able to do this with those we fight today.

Maybe it is too early to even think like this, but when will the time come when we should begin preparing ourselves to face such mental recovery?  That is a question I regrettably just don't have the answer for.  What I do know is that whether we like it or not, the closing bell sounded for Iraq, and it will likely sound for Afghanistan in the very near future.  Hopefully, we are prepared.

Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran, is a senior analyst for WIKISTRAT.  He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security and interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban.  He is the author of Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies and the children's book American Patriotism.  You can follow him on Facebook.