After nearly 11 years, many by now have grown numb to the sting of losing soldiers like Pfc. Shane W. Cantu of Corunna, Mich. He died of shrapnel wounds in the remoteness of eastern Afghanistan, not far from the getaway route that Osama bin Laden took when U.S. forces invaded after Sept. 11, 2001, and began America's longest war.
Cantu was 10 back then.
Nearly every day the Pentagon posts another formulaic death notice, each one brief and unadorned, revealing the barest of facts - name, age and military unit - but no words that might capture the meaning of the loss.
Cantu, who joined the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade on Sept. 11 last year and went to Afghanistan last month, was among five U.S. deaths announced this past week, as the Democrats and Republicans wrapped up back-to-back presidential nominating conventions.
American troops are still dying in Afghanistan at a pace that doesn't often register beyond their hometowns. So far this year, it's 31 a month on average, or one per day. National attention is drawn, briefly, to grim and arbitrary milestones such as the 1,000th and 2,000th war deaths. But days, weeks and months pass with little focus by the general public or its political leaders on the individuals behind the statistics.
Each week at war has a certain sameness for those not fighting it, yet every week brings distinct pain and sorrow to the families who learn that their son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother was killed or wounded.
Cantu died Aug. 28, but the Pentagon did not publicly release his name until Wednesday. He was memorialized by his paratrooper "sky soldier" comrades in Italy on Thursday and honored in his hometown of Corunna, where the high school football coach, Mike Sullivan, was quoted in local news reports as saying the energetic and athletic Cantu had been "the toughest kid I've ever coached — ever known."
Image: In this Saturday, May 12, 2012 photo, pedestrians walk through Times Square beneath an ABC News ticker with the headline "2 NATO troops die in Afghanistan," in New York.
Images & Text: AP