On Oct. 7, 2001, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, beginning its invasion of Afghanistan and what would come to be known as the War on Terror.

In response to 9/11, the United States issued a five-point ultimatum to Afghanistan’s Taliban government, demanding Kabul turn over al-Qaida’s leaders. The Taliban refused.

President George W. Bush ordered air and land-based strikes to destroy terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan. These strikes began a 13-year operation, during which almost 1 million members of our military were deployed to Afghanistan, the Philippines and Trans-Saharan Africa to combat terrorist groups. Finally, on May 2, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden.

Operation Enduring Freedom officially ended in December 2014, but the United States continues to conduct and lead operations against terrorist organizations. Currently, about 11,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan.

The operation has taken the lives of thousands of America’s bravest and best. Today, thousands of combat veterans struggle with health conditions, including combat injuries, PTSD and infectious diseases from their time in Southwest Asia.

In the face of these struggles, our brave men and women set an example of service and outstanding citizenship. The veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom have returned home to start businesses, speak out on the issues they care about, raise families, support their brothers and sisters in uniform, and serve their communities through civic engagement.

On this anniversary of the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Concerned Veterans for America Foundation remembers our veterans who gave so much to protect our freedom. We are thankful for their service.