Broken Promises: The Pain of the GWOT Generation
Written by Kyle Larson & Brodie Kirkpatrick
“It didn’t have to be this bad.” That is going to be the constant refrain from everyone in the coming days and weeks. Unfortunately, a large majority of people saying this are also to blame. Once again, America’s sons and daughters, and innocent civilians trying to escape a horrible situation pay the price for politicians and pundits' stupidity and selfishness. 8/26/21, a day which will for sure live on in dark infamy in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, is the culmination of 20 years of abject failure of the supposed leaders of this country. Four Presidents. Countless senators, representatives, appointed military leaders. You are to blame for this. Every day for 20 long years, we showed up to work. We went where you ordered us. We trained, we fought, and we died. You have all gotten rich off the products of our labor. The whole system you continue to prop up is rotten to the core. The failure of the GWOT is not our burden to carry. We have done everything that was asked and ordered, yet time and time again you fail us.
The question that has been asked often in the past few weeks is, was it all worth it? Were the lives lost and bodies mutilated in vain? Did we accomplish anything? And to that I say, yes, we made it worth it. WE never forgot about the sacrifices. WE accomplished what we were supposed to. The Politicians forgot about it. America forgot about it. We are nothing but numbers to them, or pawns on a chessboard. But to those of you who I am proud to call my family, know this. It was not in vain. We never forgot.
To the men and women that were in Kabul, know this. We are here for you. This community will not forget about you, and we will do everything we can to help you. You reminded the world, all the soft egotistical politicians, and all the fucking armchair quarterbacks that the world will always has and always need warriors. But that warriors are not one dimensional rage driven creatures. You alone have helped evacuate over 100,000 Afghan citizens. You have made a fucking difference. You showed the world what the best of us can do, even during the worst of times. 99% of people will never have to go through what you went through. Nor will they honestly care. We’re not real to them. But you are real to us. You matter to us. We are here for you even though they are not. We love you, we are proud of you, and we cannot wait to get you home.
To all my other brothers and sisters, if you are struggling, reach out. We need each other now more than ever. Fuck the politics, the partisanship, the whole godamn shitshow of it. There are more important things than that right now.
I’ve been spending the past six days trying to figure out what to say, at least without sounding like a lunatic. I've wanted to curse every elected official and flag officer in this country. I’m really still not quite sure what to say and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. What could possibly be said that will do justice to the men and women we lost on Thursday or the situation as a whole?
These recent weeks in Afghanistan have been dreadful to watch. I remember seeing the news that Sangin fell to the Taliban. I had this odd feeling in the pit of my stomach. I say odd because I was never there. I’ve never even stepped foot in Afghanistan. I’ve certainly never fought there. I think to myself, “why do I feel this way? If I feel this way, how do the people that actually fought there feel?” It was weird for me to think about it. As the days went on more and more districts fell. Then the Taliban assaulted the provincial capitals. Within eight days they took Kabul, signifying the fall of the Afghan government. Only the small province of Panjshir remains free.
Kyle put it into words much better than I could’ve. Our leaders failed us; both as veterans and as Americans. None of them care and none of them will be held accountable. Maybe it’s even better that I waited until today to write this. The more time that has passed has given us an even bigger picture in regards to how weak and foolish the upper levels of our political and military class appear. On 08/23, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called claims of Americans being stranded in Afghanistan irresponsible. Well, one week later “hundreds” of Americans are literally stranded in Afghanistan (federal agencies are giving varying figures). The last of our troops are now gone and those Amercians have no way out. They’re stranded in a country controlled by a terrorist group that despises them. That doesn’t even take into account the tens-of-thousands of Afghan SIV applicants that we promised to evacuate and were still left behind. Whatever happens to them will be the fault of our leadership.
And now we are in the wake of 13 dead American warriors. 11 Marines, one Navy Corpsman, and one soldier. Many others were wounded last Thursday and some of those injuries are life altering. Many of us are angry, sad, confused, or all three. It is right and just to feel these emotions. These men and women were taken from their families and America as a whole. We will never forget them. Also, we should never forget the immense amount of failure and absolute lack of accountability from our “leaders”. While this administration is absolutely to blame for the nightmare unfolding before our eyes these recent weeks, let’s not forget that this war has spanned 20 years. Every presidential administration and Congress in that time has failed us and lied to us continually.
This has been a hard time for all of us and it will be for a while. Please reach out to someone if you need to talk. The only people we can truly rely on is each other. With that being said, each and every one of us needs to step up to the plate and support not only each other, but the loved ones of those we just lost as well. Our community is capable of doing great things. We need to uphold that image.