It should be easier to know the price of something so costly.
But in a war, numbers are contentious -- politicized and hard to pin down.
We live in a country that has been engaged in long-term, recent wars. The day-to-day reality of that impacts a sliver of people who have served or are serving overseas and their families. Do the rest of us have any idea how much it has cost us in blood and treasure?
There have been 6,805 American servicemen and women who have died during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Faces of the Fallen tracker by the Washington Post.
The death toll among Iraqis and Afghanis is much harder to know.
There have been at least 120,000, and maybe more than 137,000, Iraqi civilians killed by violence during the war, according to British-based Iraq Body Count. Including enemy combatants brings the death toll to 188,000.
The most recent peer-reviewed and comprehensive study, however, places the total Iraqi death toll much higher -- at 500,000, of which 60 percent were violent deaths and 40 percent were war-related, avoidable, indirect deaths, such as patients who died for lack of treatment in hospitals overwhelmed with war casualities.
In Afghanistan, there have been between 18,000 and 20,000 civilian deaths attributed to the war.
Our country's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has cost taxpayers more than $4 trillion and could reach up to $6 trillion in the long run, according to a Harvard study published last year.
These numbers are staggering and outside what we can truly comprehend.
Still, we have a responsibility as citizens, not only of this country but of the world, to consider these costs and ask ourselves if the outcomes have been worth the price.
When I force myself to confront this question, I lose track of numbers. I go back to 2006, the year I returned to work after the birth of my son.
I covered four local military deaths that year.
I remember the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Kyle Price, from a small town in southern Illinois, talking about how he was supposed to return in a month and marry his pregnant fiancee. He was killed in Iraq that January. He was 19.
My younger brother was 19 that year, too.
Two months later, I covered the funeral of Army Sgt. Amanda Nicole Pinson. I remember the Toby Keith song "American Solider" played during her service, and the older veteran who stood with his hand over his heart as the cars in her funeral procession headed to the cemetery. She was 21.
That summer, I witnessed the funeral and burial of Marine Cpl. Riley Baker. There were a thousand mourners at his service and a seven-mile funeral procession. He was 22.
I watched a mother's face when she was handed an American flag folded into a triangle and the way she clutched it to her chest.
Right before Christmas, I wrote about Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew W. Clark. He had thought about his mother when he filled out his emergency contact form before leaving for Iraq. He wrote that he wanted his priest present if his mother had to hear bad news, so his priest accompanied three Marines when they visited her. Clark was 22.
These four would have been young when the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11. They came of age in a time when our country had been attacked, and they wanted to do what they could to defend it.
As a young new mother, I sobbed through each service and burial I attended that year. I thought about their lives and the broken hearts of their families.
Our pain is like the pain of any other parent in the world.
There's the other cost of war.
The cost that has nothing to do with numbers.