Although I didn’t serve in Afghanistan, I was deployed to Iraq from October of 2004 to January of 2006 during Operation Enduring Freedom. Our unit’s mission was convoy security. We provided gun support for civilian and military contractors, and I was directly involved in combat several times. Unfortunately, I witnessed soldiers and friends who were seriously injured and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Even though it was 16 years ago, I still remember my time in Iraq as if it was yesterday. That’s one thing about combat; it never leaves you. The current situation with troops’ withdrawal and the fall of Afghanistan is bringing many buried emotions and feelings to the surface.
My experience in Iraq + My reaction to Afghanistan
I recall my first interaction with Iraqi and Turkish civilians. We had just arrived in Mosul, Iraq, after providing gun support for a supply mission, and we had a few days of downtime before heading back to base. A group of us decided to walk down to the bazaar downtown, which is like a big flea market. I purchased candy to hand out to some of the children that had been following us since we arrived and quickly became overrun with hundreds of kids with their hands out begging for candy. One little girl held onto my hand for dear life, and even though I didn’t speak or understand Farsi, we could still communicate with our hands and facial expressions. That mission will always be one of my favorite deployment memories.
Watching the news can be difficult because you start thinking about how the war impacted your life and many others. So many families have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands and thousands of soldiers made it home physically but mentally left a piece of themselves overseas. All the soldiers that returned with injuries, all the families that didn’t survive multiple deployments, and all the loved ones that lost their significant other, brother, sister, father, mother, the list goes on and on. A war that lasted 20 years has affected so many, and watching news coverage of the current Afghanistan situation is heartbreaking, and you wonder if it was all worth it.
When you witness first-hand how horrific and heartless insurgents can be, it changes you. Seeing true evil and knowing what they are capable of, you can’t help but worry for the Afghan civilians, especially all the children. I feel devastated for the interpreters, translators, and support personnel who have worked alongside the United States for 20 years, that doesn’t have a way out and will become the Taliban’s next target.
Even though I experienced loss in Iraq and have mixed feelings about the war, it is also how I met my husband. We were fortunate to serve together and had each other to rely on, especially when we came home. So many veterans don’t have the benefit of knowing precisely what their significant other went through and healing together.
I’m grateful for the experience, and at times I miss it. I miss the camaraderie and feeling like I’m making a difference. My favorite memories include handing out supplies to children in Iraq and providing gun support so schools, hospitals, and roads could be built, impacting how they lived. So it’s hard to watch the news of the Taliban seizing Afghanistan. My heart goes out to Afghanistan, and all I can do is pray for them and pray for all the veterans and families that have sacrificed so much over the last twenty years.
What do you think about the situation in Afghanistan? Please share your thoughts in the comments, or contact me via email. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog; I appreciate your support.