One of the twenty-somethings, a medic, had just asked his mom to send medical books to the war zone so he could begin studying to be a doctor. Two of the fighting men saw their futures in law enforcement, hoping to apply skills learned in combat to keeping the peace at home. Another was looking forward to parenting his 6-month-old twin girls. And a fifth solder was so committed to the cause that he was on his first assignment in Afghanistan after completing two earlier tours in Iraq.

Minnesotans all, their futures were abruptly cut short last week when they became casualties of conflicts across the ocean. Their deaths were an especially forceful reminder that America remains a nation at war.

As we go about our daily lives in relative safety, this quintet of losses refocuses Minnesota minds on the tremendous sacrifices that local families make in support of American ideals.

Last Thursday, Daniel Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury; James Wertish, 20, of Olivia; and Carlos Wilcox, 27, of Cottage Grove; were killed in a missile attack in Iraq. All three National Guard specialists were members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and were assigned to the 34th Military Police Company based out of Stillwater. An Iranian militia member has been arrested by Iraqi authorities for the attack.

On Sunday, as several hundred people gathered in Stillwater to honor those three, we learned that two more Minnesotans had lost their lives as the result of injuries suffered in Afghanistan. Ben Kopp, 21, of Rosemount, died Saturday at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he had been in a coma due to wounds received on July 10. The day before, Air Force Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, a St. Paul native who had moved his family to North Carolina, was killed when his fighter jet crashed.

As Minnesota mourns the deaths of five fallen soldiers, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is on his fourth trip to Iraq to let the fighting men and women know -- up close and personally -- that he supports their efforts. To his credit, the governor has often personally conveyed his appreciation to our troops both here in Minnesota and overseas. On behalf of all Minnesotans, the governor has shown compassion and concern for our fighting men and women.

We'll never know what these five brave souls might have contributed to our society as police officers, doctors, fathers and members of our community. Their lives were taken from them and from their families in the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We should honor their service and remain forever grateful.