It’s that time of year to reflect on what we are grateful for. Beyond my usual list of family, friends, etc., I am grateful for the end of US troops fighting in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, my gratitude is complicated by the shame of a chaotic withdrawal and the bitter reality of the ongoing suffering of the Afghan people.
Nonetheless, gratitude is good medicine. I am thankful for the active-duty service personnel and civilian volunteers who have welcomed around 73,000 Afghans on military installations across the US. The next step for these Afghan newcomers is to be welcomed into communities across the country where they will need ongoing support to grieve their losses and rebuild their lives. Here’s where gratitude links up with action to donate or volunteer.
To the troops who had the heart-wrenching task of managing the chaos at the Kabul airport, I am so sorry that our nation put you in that situation. Sadly, this Thanksgiving will be difficult for the grieving families of the 13 US service members who were killed along with at least 170 Afghans.
Events like the US withdrawal can understandably trigger feelings of betrayal for those who served and their loved ones. For what it’s worth, nonveterans like me are the ones most responsible for holding politicians and the generals advising them accountable for their decisions and lies over almost two decades of war.
Amid tragedy, I have a practice of looking for heartwarming stories to shore up my resilience. I loved reading about veterans using their wartime strategic skills, in-country knowledge, and commitment to leave no one behind to evacuate Afghans at risk for Taliban retaliation. In a wonderful plot twist, these veterans recruited nonveteran volunteers to help them with their mission, an example of how every generation of veterans calls the rest of us to serve with integrity and courage.
Thank you for your service.