‘We did save lives. We did help people’ — Veterans reflect on end of Afghanistan War

Military

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — As the final troops left Afghanistan, veterans and service members reflected on their time serving in America’s longest war. Truck Carlson, who served in the army for 30 years and retired as sergeant first class, was part of one of the first groups to be deployed to Afghanistan in 2001.

“The [Twin] Towers were still burning when I was there,” Carlson explains. “We knew then that it was going to be a tough road because you’re talking about ideologies and bringing American democracy into a region like that. It usually does not go well.”

Nearly 20 years after he left Afghanistan, Carlson says it was emotional to see the final troops withdraw.

“You feel this sense of failure. Why was I there? Why did I go? I tell myself and any veteran who is willing to listen, ‘We do not practice democracy in the military. We defend it. We are told to go. We did not choose for that mission to happen. We did our job. It was important that we were there. It was important that we did the job that we did.’ I would encourage every veteran to keep a hold of that thought because it wasn’t for nothing. We did save lives, and we did help people.”

“We feel good about the accomplishments we did achieve during the time we were there,” Hollis Bush, an army veteran, adds.

Hollis Bush, who retired as lieutenant colonel, served in the army for 28 years. He was the chief for detention operations at Bagram Air Field and Kandaha. He says service members “complete a mission to the best of their ability.”

“A lot of them [veterans] are frustrated, angry and don’t understand why. What I tell them is, ‘We did our job, and our civilian leadership will make decisions. Sometimes we might not agree with them. However, as service members, we perform our mission that our civilian leaders give us.'”

Dr. Craig Albert, a associate professor of political science at Augusta University, says the United States achieved its mission of preventing terror attacks.

“For 20 years, there was no major terrorist attack against the United States or on the United States’ homeland,” Albert explains. “If the United States did not go to Afghanistan in 2001, there certainly would have been more attacks carried out against the United States, planned by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, as funded and allied by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

“The Taliban seems to want to maintain relationships with the United States, which was not the case between 1996 and 2001,” Albert adds. The Taliban understands if they do anything to threaten the United States, the United States will respond violently to that threat.”

The war is over, but Albert says another mission is ongoing — the rescue and evacuation of Americans still in Afghanistan.

“Right now, I think the White House is focused on getting Americans out,” Albert says.

“Our service members are pulling out while we know there are still Americans on the ground,” Carlson adds. “To any veteran, that is completely unacceptable. To our active duty counterparts, it’s a completely unacceptable situation. We are taught in the military to never leave a person behind. So, it’s heartbreaking.  It’s a punch in the gut. “

Emotions are high during this time, but Carlson and Bush say they would serve their country all over again.

Support for veterans

Any veteran seeking support can contact the VA by clicking here or calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1).


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