SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As the Taliban reclaims control in Afghanistan, some local veterans say they feel like their service in America’s longest-running war was in vain.
Jamie Stroh served in the military for 15 years, one of them in Afghanistan in 2008. He said he felt shocked and betrayed watching the Taliban take over.
“Why did I go over there and spend an entire year of my life over there,?” Jamie said. “Why did I go over there and lose friends? Why did I go over there and see friends wounded? Now it seems like it was all in vain.”
While Stroh aches for his comrades who were injured or lost their lives, he is also thinking of the Afghan people he met.
“When they think of the Americans, they’re going to think of us,” he said. “So they’re going to feel we’re the ones that betrayed them. And that’s a pretty big pill to swallow.”
Stroh recalled having dinner with Afghan families, people he described as welcoming and caring.
“I’m scared to death for them because deep down we all know what’s going to happen,” Stroh said. “The Taliban regime is going to take over and it’s going to be extremely strict, just like it was before.”
Stroh called the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan “an international embarrassment.”
“I had a feeling that this is not the way to do it,” he said. “Did we need to go? Yes, we needed to go. But not in the way that we did.”
What once was a source of pride, Stroh now says is an embarrassment.
“The schools we built, the government buildings that we built, all of this for what?” he said. “Nothing. It’s all in the Taliban’s hands.”
Chris O’Malley spent 21 years in the army, the majority during and following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Was our service worth it?” he said. “What did it really mean? You know, now after all this time it looks like it’s going back in that same direction. Did we really do a good thing?”
To O’Malley, it’s a confusing time with mixed emotions.
“There’s anger, resentment, there’s happiness that we’re out of there and vets don’t have to go through that struggle,” he said. “Personally, I think we did make a difference. Did we make it enough? Well, that’s for more discussion.”
O’Malley is the president of Team Savannah for Veterans, a non-profit that provides peer support, financial assistance and manual labor for veterans.
Now, O’Malley said the organization is focused on being a shoulder for local veterans to confide in.
“I know that’s something I did in the past, just try to stuff it down,” he said. “And it was really when I kind of started talking to people and getting it out there when I was kind of able to kind of figure out and work through my emotions.”
As Stroh processes his emotions, he said he wants to lean on those who have walked in his shoes.
“For those that want to know how we feel, I want to feel a sense of pride that I served over there again,” he said. “I had that and then it seemed like it went by the wayside as soon as all of this happened.”
There are two events this weekend for veterans to get together and discuss.
On Friday, there will be a pint night and fish fry at American Legion 184 in Savannah from 6:00-9:00 p.m. There will also be a Coffee and Camaraderie at TOSA Coffee Company in Richmond Hill from 2:00-6:00 p.m.
O’Malley also recommends VFW 660, Fight the War Within, Strike Team and American Legion as additional support resources for veterans.