Veterans Day: Afghanistan Veteran Reflects on America’s Withdrawal: Opinion

This Veterans Day had a particular weight that I had not felt in years past. Typically a day to think about my family, friends, and my own service to the country, this Veterans Day is particularly meaningful for two reasons: (1) It marks the first year that I have been a veteran for longer than that. I have been. on active duty; and (2) it has viscerally reminded me of the importance of what it means to serve after the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan and our betrayal of our Afghan and NATO allies.

I was honorably discharged as a captain in June 2016, having served just over five years as an infantry officer in the active duty military intelligence branch of the US Army. I loved my time in the military and really appreciated the opportunity to serve. Following in the footsteps of my grandfather and father, I was proud to continue the family line of military service in the United States of America.

By serving in the military, I learned what it was like to be humiliated, to suffer, and to overcome challenges that I had previously seen as invincible. By truly internalizing what it meant to put my fellow soldiers before myself, my military service made me a better civilian, a better husband, a better son, and a better man. Being more of a civilian than I was an active duty soldier is a reminder that I will always carry those hard-earned lessons with me, no matter what my future endeavors are.

This Veterans Day was also a reminder that service does not stop when the uniform is removed. The selfless service mindset and importance of helping others, that so many other veterans and I forged during our time in the military, is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. Over the past two months, countless other veterans and I have put that mindset to the test as we have been actively involved in helping our former Afghan allies and their families escape the dire fates of the Taliban. As I am still actively helping a former Afghan colleague, I cannot go into much detail about my personal involvement, but I can say that I have been working since mid-August in the veterans network helping Afghan refugees.

I have never been so disappointed in my country and so proud of my fellow veterans as since America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. I think there was an unfathomable failure of leadership at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House, as we abandoned hundreds of Americans, abandoned our Afghan allies, sold nearly 20 million Afghan women to lives of sexual slavery and we cause 13 American Service Members to be killed by the Islamic State-Khorasan Province.
    Taliban fighters check on wounded comrades at the entrance to the emergency hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 2, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / ZOHRA BENSEMRA) Taliban fighters check on wounded comrades at the entrance to the emergency hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 2, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / ZOHRA BENSEMRA)

But the veterans network that I was fortunate to be a part of demonstrated the warrior spirit of doing our best to leave no one behind. From group chats that provided the latest reports of what was happening on the ground in Kabul, to comforting each other during 3 a.m. phone calls when the horror of what was happening was too much to bear, the veterans network came together in your mutual support and strength.

No matter the branch of service, and no matter if we all agree on the nuances of the issues, the collective network of veterans was there for each other because we all shared a mutual understanding of what it was like to have served. We knew we were doing what we had been trained to do: helping those less fortunate and representing the best values ​​of our country.

As I have reflected on this Veterans Day, I have thought of my family, friends, and fellow servicemen who have donned the uniform of one of the branches of the US military in service to the nation. Above all, I will think of the veterans who have continued to do everything possible to help Afghans and allies in need, as well as each other. At a time when the country can feel like it’s at a tipping point and falling apart at the seams, my fellow veterans give me hope for America’s future because they know that regardless of our differences, it is our common strength and identity as a nation that will triumph.

So, to my fellow veterans on Veterans Day 2021, thank you for your service to the country we love.

The writer is a lawyer, a Jewish veteran of the US Army with deployments in Afghanistan and a defender of Israel. He received the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service. He is an editorial associate at The Miryam Institute.

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