Among the high-stakes questions about the continuing U.S. military mission in Afghanistan: Does the accelerated timetable for the withdrawal of American troops seriously increase the risks for not just the Afghan government but the dwindling U.S. forces? Can Afghans carry the fighting load against the Taliban? Will the exit of U.S. combat forces let al-Qaida re-establish its bases in Afghanistan?

But there’s no question about this inspiring fact: Members of the U.S. armed forces have, as usual, shown admirable courage under fire in the longest war in U.S. history.

And last week, Army Sgt. Aaron Wittman of Chester, Va., age 28, became the 18th Citadel alumnus to join the ranks of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in “action associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The 2007 Citadel graduate was killed on a mounted patrol when his unit was hit by small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.

Sgt. Wittman, who previously received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was on his second combat deployment.

He carried on his family’s proud military — and Citadel — traditions. His father, retired Army Maj. Duane Wittman, is a member of the Class of 1975. His brother, Marine 1st Lt. Nicholas Wittman, graduated in 2003. Sgt. Wittman’s sister-in-law, Marine 1st Lt. Rikki Felts Wittman, graduated in 2004.

It is natural — indeed, necessary — to wonder if the outcome of the protracted conflict in Afghanistan is worth the terrible price paid by our brave troops.

But we need not wonder where to find the heroic people who put their lives on the line for our country:

They come from special places across the land — including The Citadel.