Children of the fallen

The knock at the door. The shock and grief that followed. An absence that lasts a lifetime.

Much of the country grew weary of the longest war in U.S. history years ago. But for the hundreds of children who lost parents in Afghanistan, the conflict that began 26 days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will never really end. They continue to pay the cost of war with the cheers they won’t hear from the soccer sidelines, the hugs they won’t get at their high school graduations, the arms they won’t clasp down the aisle at their weddings.

Here are 14 portraits of those children, one for each year of a war that has claimed more than 2,300 American lives since 2001. Those profiled range in age from 6 to 34 and live from Connecticut to California. They are second-graders and high school seniors, athletes and artists, strugglers and strivers, each finding his or her own path through a childhood marred by loss. Each living with a piece of himself or herself forever gone. — Steve Hendrix