Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the 30 members of the U.S. military who lost their lives last week in Afghanistan when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents.

It was the deadliest attack on U.S. military in ten years of fighting in Afghanistan. Most f the dead were Navy SEALs, members of the elite unit that killed Osama bin Laden.

Regarding this attack, there is no doubt much to be said about policy. But for now, let’s leave the analysis aside and ponder the valor of these soldiers.  Max Boot was eloquent on the subject of their bravery:

I recall visiting one Special Operations headquarters not long ago and seeing a wall of honor with pictures of all those who had fallen in the line of duty. It was depressing to see how many pictures were on that wall-all of them top-flight professionals killed far far too young. But it was also inspiring to know that, despite all those losses, there are still so many volunteers willing to put on their body armor, climb aboard a Chinook or Black Hawk every night and fly off to do battle with the most dangerous terrorists on the planet.

Occasionally, the veil is lifted on their activities, when there is a particularly notable victory such as the killing of bin Laden-or a particularly notable defeat such as Saturday’s helicopter crash. But mostly they operate in the shadows, these “quiet professionals” who risk their lives out of dedication to their country, knowing they will earn scant reward beyond perhaps a few ribbons on their chest and the respect of their peers.

The debt we owe them is inestimable and looms especially large on a day such as this when all Americans mourn the loss of 30 of our finest young men.