We have all seen the picture. The one of the C-17 military aircraft loaded well past capacity with Afghans trying to escape the rapidly spreading reclamation of Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
When we see the picture and the videos of the people fleeing in fear for their lives, each of us see’s something different.
Some of us flash back to the day the Twin Towers fell, remembering the images that blazed across our tv screens.
Some of us look at the screen, mortified by the human rights advancements that are quickly doing an about-face under the forces of the Taliban that have historically denied women access to education, persecuted minorities, and held public executions of anyone that opposed their rule.
Some of us watch, sympathizing as people full of fear, fleeing with everything they can carry, dart across the screen.
And some of us return to the fight itself. To the months we spent in a foreign country, trying to make freedom possible for those who could not claim it by themselves. To the time in the sun and dust where we risked our lives for a fellow soul, while our own lives were in danger and our families far away. To the moments we waited anxiously for news of our loved ones while trying to hold the household together. To the moments we counted down for the soldier to return, or heaven forbid redeploy.
When we look at these images, we each see the piece that resonates with us the most.
For the past two decades, we have watched, we have waited, we have wondered how this would end. Would we rejoice at the return of our troops? Would we change things for the better? Would we one day say that the world was freer because we fought the good fight?
Regardless of how we feel about these policy decisions, whether supportive, indifferent, or downright upset, the images that flash across our screens; it’s not what we envisioned.
When we sent our Soldiers to war, we imagined a young girl could go to school because of it.
When we fought hard and our comrades fell, we believed that they had sacrificed their lives so that terror had a little less foothold.
When we faced permanent disability, PTSD, TBIs, and the wounds that may never be visible, we hung our flags high because the scars we bore meant the world was freer.
We faced difficulties in our marriage, missed the births of our children, buried and mourned the loss of our brothers and sisters in arms all because it meant something.
And now, as the state of Afghanistan rapidly changes before our eyes, we as a military, and we as a country are faced with the questions,`Was it all worth it? Did the sacrifices mean anything? Did we accomplish any good? What next?’
As we face these questions over the next months and years, we must remember this is so much more than the news that we see today. We must remember that when duty called, our nation answered with it’s bravest, and your impact outlasts your presence…even when the television looks grim. Even in the face of what we see today, this is still something. A hero does what it is right when duty calls, and mourns when injustice triumphs.
To our Soldiers, you protected the people in front of you, the brothers and sisters to the left and right of you, and the country behind you, and you did so with honor.
Our heart goes out to those who have served, those still serving and faced with impossible choices in the face of desperation and rapidly changing conditions, and all of Afghanistan’s people. Regardless of your position on the policy decisions that have been made, these are extraordinarily difficult times for all of humankind, and there will be more difficulty to come…for our nation, for Afghanistan, and for the world as a whole.
As for me, I will hug my Soldier, I will thank my friends for their service, and I will continue to look for ways to support efforts that support freedom and autonomy across the world. We may not know the way forward, but we know what is right, and it is this that we continue to fight for.
We are with you, in every way we know how to be. Now and always.
All of my love, honor, and respect,
What we are looking at flash across our phones and televisions and computers is policy, and the second and third order effects of the policy decisions that have been made…and these policy decisions are not only loud, they are screaming. They are blood and sweat and tears and cargo planes and school books and flags at half mast. These are policy decisions with heartbeats. These policies are felt by those who served. They are felt by those who are left behind. These policies are not only decisions, but very real people. And this. This is what this platform is dedicated to.
On this platform, it doesn’t matter what qualifier you have been labeled with – not the way you vote or the color of your skin or who you love or what you believe, if you find yourself struggling or alone, please reach out through social media or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is an always platform, ready to answer in both the best and worst of times.
If you know someone who has served, please check on them. And if you yourself have served, and are struggling, please reach out to one of the following resources.
Veterans Crisis Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Military OneSource 800-342-9647
Women Veterans Hotline 855-829-6636