The Collapse of Afghanistan, A Military Wife's Perspective


images from 9-11 War Memorial


The image of the second plane hitting the south tower of the World Trade Center as I sat in my 8th grade history class on September 11, 2001, is a visceral memory that still contains more than just what I saw. I remember watching my 8th grade teacher quietly crying while chewing her nails. She was a strong, confident woman with three daughters, so not scared of much, and it freaked me out to see her so upset. I remember the sick feeling of not understanding what was going on in the world, but realizing all the adults were panicking. I also think that this was the first time I had ever realized that I was watching something "live." Of course my family watched college football on Saturdays and I remember Kerri Strug winning gold in gymnastics after breaking her ankle in the 1996 Olympics, but I didn't realize those events were "happening now." When that plane hit the second tower, it wasn't the first time I saw it, it was the first time anyone had seen it. Those people are dying right now. In my freezing cold desk, I bounced my knee until my quads burned because no one knew when it would be over. Since when do adults not know what's going on? At some point, the bell rang and we shuffled into the hall for our next classes. The hallway confirmed that 9-11 didn't just happen on the TV in my classroom. Other kids saw it, other teachers cried and chewed their nails. What does this MEAN, though?? The teachers couldn't teach, kids were being checked out of school like crazy, everyone was upset all day long.

When I came home from school, my mother was there (this woman NEVER missed work) taping hours of CNN. All she could say was "you are witnessing history. You will never forget this as long as you live." For next several weeks, our teachers and parents did their best to give age-appropriate explanations of what had gone on in New York City, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and the Middle East. I digested what I could, but I didn't even know what questions to ask. The World Trade Center was now called "Ground Zero," President George W. Bush was on every channel for weeks on end, words like Taliban and Al-Qaeda were being thrown around as identifiers of the hijackers, and still no one seemed to know if this was the end of the attacks or just the beginning.

As an 8th grader, I would have never guessed we'd still be trying to figure it out 20 years later. I would have never fathomed that I would ever be old enough to get involved in it. And once I did, I never thought it would "end" this way.


Just as the images of the collapse of the New York skyline are burned in my brain, the images of Kabul on August 15, 2021 will also sear into my memory like a scar. Aircrafts jammed with people seeking sanctuary in the United States. Mothers passing their infants to strangers through barred gates. People so desperate to flee that they tried to hang onto the exterior parts of a moving aircraft. Armed Taliban leaders sitting at mahogany desks in the nation's capitol without even trying to hide their faces or their intentions. Children screaming. People crying.


Then there are the images of my real life as a military spouse. A wheelchair sits in my closet because this conflict demanded both of my husband's legs. Photos on our walls of our unbelievably inspirational friends who also became amputees... as well as dads, business owners, and college graduates. Then there are the ones that paid the ultimate sacrifice from the Army's 1-23 Infantry Battalion. The ones whose lives were cut short leaving their brothers in arms to carry their legacy and the scar of the loss. The ones we will never get back.


 

I believe talking politically is pointless, but especially about this topic. As strange as it is, it seems that pulling out of Afghanistan was the one thing Donald Trump and Joe Biden agreed upon. Was there a certain strategy the United States could have used that might have been more effective? Maybe. Is there a strategy the United States could have used that would have eliminated terrorism in the Middle East?

No.

The answer to that question is no.

The answer to that question will always be no.


In the past couple of days, we have seen terrorism do what it does in real time. It waits in the shadows until the helpers think they have helped enough. And by the way, we've helped a lot. We didn't just go over there and get rid of bad guys. We trained their military, provided clean water, and guarded children's rights to go to school. However, a vacuum is created in the evacuation of the help and terrorism comes flooding in like ants on a picnic spread. Afghanistan is known as "the graveyard of empires" for a reason. Extremist tribes will always outlast a patriotic country because tribalism is a direct contradiction to patriotism. Let me explain this....Each generation of American has seen it's own version of internal hostility. From the Civil War to the capitol insurrection earlier this year, we have seen our own citizens hurt each other. However, we have preventative measures in place to keep us from going backward in an unlawful way. No matter how divided we become, we will never legalize slavery again or take away women's rights to vote because tribalism has been sacrificed in order to unite for the common good of the whole. So it doesn't matter if your family (a.k.a. your tribe) doesn't think black people should be free, you're status as an American trumps those familial beliefs. To reap the benefits of a sovereign nation and to ensure freedom for all, we all must set aside what our families of origin would have killed their neighbor for. To be an American, this is what you've agreed to do. The system is not perfect, but it is progressive. When we decide something is wrong, we write it into law so that the future cannot reverse it. This is not the way of life for many cultures in the Middle East. A woman that could wear pants and take college classes last week could be beheaded on the internet for showing her ankles this week. Terrorism moves as far backwards as it takes for its citizens to become victims. It laughs in the face of diplomacy, even when a sovereign nation is trying to leave their territory. It cares nothing for government or structure. It’s goal is fear, fear, fear. what better way to drive that idea home than to bomb an evacuation effort with your own men in suicide vests? Modernization will not be tolerated because it induces thinking and independence. The goal is to eliminate progress. This is why places like the Helmand Province, where Josh deployed, have not advanced since the reign of Ghengis Khan 1221 (seriously, Google this). This keeps people tribal, separated, and unable to band together to weed out the evil that lives among them. It‘s why over the past 20 years we’ve heard terrorism become Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, The Haqqani, AQAP, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and ISIS-K. These terms don’t just identify a people group like “New Yorkers” or “Pacific Islanders.” They are representative of extremist interests that are worth killing their neighbor for and every person born within the territory of that group is required to submit themselves to the ideals or suffer consequences. They fight each other for power. That power comes through who can strike the most fear for the longest amount of time.


As a patriot, I am not shocked that the Taliban is back in power or that a branch of ISIS is fighting for center-stage. I am not educated or informed enough to anticipate terrorist strategy, but no one that I know was under the impression that we had eliminated terrorism; or at least dialed it down to an unsustainable level like Nazi Germany. What shocked me was the amount of time it took. Friday to Sunday. Three days and Afghanistan was no longer a republic in progress. Millions of dollars and thousands of lives were spent to train, liberate, educate, and provide resources for regular people to just be able to do regular things without the demons that terrorized them every day. And in a weekend, the demons got it all back.


As a military spouse, I think of the 200+ people that I lived with at Walter Reed Medical Center for 22 months of my life. People lost legs, arms, mobility, hearing, eyesight, independence, purpose, and friends (and more are on their way). As the spouse in this situation, you initially believe that what has happened to your soldier is the worst that could happen. Then you learn that yours is in the "all gave some" category because the war was still raging and people that I knew were coming home in flag-draped boxes. Young men and women that I don’t know received that same fate just last week at the Kabul Airport.


I will be the first to admit that my thoughts on length of time and level of intensity in Afghanistan have changed many times because of experiences like this. In one season I will think "we have got to get out of there. We cannot sell the American dream to a culture that cannot sustain it. It's too costly for us to stay." The next season I'll think "We have got to intensify building up the Afghan people so they will want to defend their way of life. The Taliban is lurking around every corner and if we provide aid for the citizens then the Taliban is just going to target them. It's too costly for us to leave." But the truth is getting rid of these terrorist groups is like saying you're going to get rid of all the ants in the world. At some point, you realize what you're up against and you can only vow to keep them out of your house.


So if you're ever tempted to ask "what have we done for the last 20 years? What was the point?" There is your answer:

We have not feared the terror of night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

nor the plague that destroys at midday. (Psalm 91:5-6)

because of the 100% volunteer military that has kept Taliban terrorism out of our house.


Where I choose to lean in most is in my faith. As a Christian, I know that God is not surprised by any of this. This is what evil has looked like since Cain killed Abel. I also know God has compassion for the people of Afghanistan. There are millions of truly innocent citizens in Afghanistan that did not choose to be born in a stone-age, terror-stricken dictatorship. Yet, that was the hand they were dealt. I have an eight year old daughter whose biggest concern most days is what's on the lunch menu at school and whether she got to sit next to her friend on the bus. An eight year old Afghan girl lives in an R-rated violent nightmare everyday. Both bear the image of God. Both are equally innocent. Both were worth the cost of Jesus's life on the cross. It is this reason that we MUST pray for Afghanistan. We must pray for the yoke of tyranny and slavery to fall off of this generation. That their rights would be identified, agreed upon, and written into law with consequences upheld by their own people. I was introduced to terrorism on a box TV in an air-conditioned room as a 13 year old kid with no concept of how close or far away I was from the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. It became part of my life, not my way of life. How far can one's hope stretch when a wolf stands outside your door salivating for everything you have? Do you appease it by giving it your money or food or even a place to stay so maybe it will be nice to you? That might work for a time, but the wolf is never satisfied. It will demand your wife, your children, and ultimately you. For so many innocent people, the choice is to fear the wolf or become a wolf. Both cost your whole life. And as we continue to see in the news, lives will be demanded every single day.


images from USMC.com


Pray for a third option for the people of Afghanistan. One that might still call for a high price, but the price is a deposit on freedom.

Pray for the families that are now living in the United States. Many of them helped save the lives of our own men and women and risked much more to do so.

Pray against any thoughts of our own veterans that creep toward "this was all for nothing" or "we lost our friends for nothing." It is pure ignorance to think that the goal of 9-11 was a firework show and nothing else was planned for America after that. If you worshipped, went to work, bought your own food, posted a political rant on Facebook, wore a tank top, or sent your child off to a publicly funded school, remember someone traded their freedom for your right to do so and not be murdered for it. It was not for nothing.

Pray for yourself as a civilian. This is not the time to scream about where you stand on the issue or to share your conspiracy theories on what's about to happen next. The truth is, the stage could be setting for us to get right back into the fight. It‘s time to surround those who will respond in prayer as well as those that tell them what to do. It's time to listen to those that have been there. Their anger doesn’t have to make you angry. Just listen. It's time to support. It's time to challenge yourself to live a life worthy of what our veterans did to make sure we never have another 9-11 again. It's time to pray for what our role is now. It is time to be thankful for the contrast: “Afghanistan citizens have been at war. American citizens have been at the mall.” -unknown.


Last, God never stopped being in charge. He has never stopped being holy. He was not dethroned when Afghanistan collapsed. America, Afghanistan, and college football teams are all earthly kingdoms that will not last forever. He has not stopped separating Himself from sin. He also has not stopped mourning for those who meet death before they meet Him. He knows what is ahead. He knows what our leadership should do. He knows who the innocent are. He knows what it means to sacrifice everything.

As a wife, my only option is gratitude and humility. I can submit my anger, sorrow, confusion, and guilt to the One who has seen this conflict play out from the beginning of time. If you don't know what to say or you don't know how to feel, just stick with

"I'm so thankful."

...it will never be wrong.



PRAY FOR THESE BY NAME


  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Tex.

  • Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, Calif.

  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah

  • Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.

  • Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.

  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyo.

  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

  • Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha

  • Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, Lawrence, Mass.

  • Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Ind.

  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Mo.

  • Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio





images from CNN.com

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