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We Failed Afghanistan: My Own Vietnam

I’m watching the video feeds coming out of Afghanistan — videos of the civilians trying to leave Kabul at the airports, the Taliban taking over Bagram, diplomats fleeing embassies via helicopter, and little girls and women fleeing schools because they’re no longer allowed to become educated. I’m sad. I’m really sad. I’m also disappointed and to be quite honest — I’m f-ing pissed off. I’m pissed at multiple Presidents, their Cabinets, Congress, the Senate, and all of the general officers “in command and in charge” of the boots on the ground in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

Guys and gals like myself answered their call and we trusted their leadership when we deployed to Afghanistan. For me, I had just seen the towers fall on 9/11 four months prior to landing in country. I was scared shitless of both the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda but I packed up my gear, weapons, bullets and I went there — terrified of dying. I went there under the false assumption that our President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew what they were doing. They didn’t.

Fast forward to 2019 and the “Afghan Papers” story that broke via the Washington Post. The story was about the 20 year war in which no one had any clue what they were doing. They interviewed me following that story and I shared with them that the one positive for me was that at least young girls and women could at least go to school (one of the most important things to me in life is the empowerment of young girls and women in today's world). That is no more. We failed the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, we failed every young girl and woman in Afghanistan.

I’m proud of those I served with that also answered the call over the last 20 years. I question how much money was made from the sweat off of our backs. This is my generations’s Vietnam and I can only hope we learn from it and hold leadership accountable when justified. I now know the emotions that veterans from Vietnam feel to this day and will probably take to their graves.

Me, photographed in Kandahar on February 3rd, 2002. I was a medevac crewchief, flight instructor, and technical inspector assigned to 50th MED at Ft. Campbell, Ky. This was one of three medevac helicopters from Ft. Campbell that were deployed in support of the 10th Mountain Division in January, 2002.

The images included in this post were taken by myself during my deployment. Documenting this war (along with Kosovo in 1999) with my camera and lens inspired me to eventually become a freelance photojournalist.

A Special Operations (160th S.O.A.R.) Chinook helicopter lands in the F.A.R.P. located in the mountains of Northern Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda. March, 2002.

Local Afghans tend to their camels near a dried-up riverbed in Central Afghanistan. February, 2002.

Three Marine Sea Stallions approach a F.A.R.P. in Northern Afghanistan to land in support of Operation Anaconda. March, 2002.

An Afghan village is seen as photographed while onboard my UH-60 medevac helicopter somewhere in Central Afghanistan. February, 2002.

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division stay warm near a fire at Bagram Air Base just hours before they were inserted via helicopter to begin Operation Anaconda. March, 2002.

Local Afghans in Central Afghanistan are seen as photographed from my helicopter. February, 2002.

U.S. Marine aircrews fold their rotor blades to redeploy home as the sun sets at Kandahar Airfield. January, 2002.

A medevac helicopter from 50th Med. at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky is seen flying over Central Afghanistan. February, 2002.

The sun sets over my aircraft at Kandahar Airfield. January, 2002.

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