As of the time of this article, it is one month past the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and more than a month since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan. As a fellow GWOT vet, like many of you I’ve spent the past month in anger, disillusionment, and questioning the point of it all. While every veteran’s response is unique and no one speaks for us all, I think it is safe to say that when most of us headed off to war over the past 20 years that this is not how we thought it would end. As for myself, I’m a veteran of Iraq circa 2003 and when ISIS was surging in Iraq and it looked like my war was pointless, I at least had the war in Afghanistan to serve as the standard bearer for the GWOT experience. At least we got the Taliban and though we may have lost our way with Iraq, defeating the Taliban was the OG post 9/11 win. Now we don’t even have that and that leads me to ponder what is next. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to speak to my fellow GWOT veterans on what is to come next and why it matters.
They Can Never Undo What Was Done
Before we move on to what’s next, let’s talk about what the Taliban can’t recapture from us. When our nation called, we answered. When we heard the snap and crack of a bullet fly in our direction, we pushed forward rather than retreated. When dire circumstances called for acts of inexplicable gallantry, men like Medal of Honor recipients Dakota Meyer, Kyle Carpenter, Clint Romesha, Michael Murphy, and more showed us the very best of humanity.
Those of us who served, we know full well that we were not fighting for the politicians that sent us to war. I can’t honestly even say that we were fighting for the political outcomes of the countries in which we fought. On any given day and on every single patrol in Iraq as a Marine, it was about the Marine to my left, the Marine to my right, and nothing else.
The War For Purpose And Passion Starts Right Here
In 1944, General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. found himself with the 4th Infantry Division prior to the invasion of Normandy. This was clearly not the famed Rough Rider President Teddy, but it was his son and namesake. Despite being in poor health and the ripe old age of 56, General Roosevelt pleaded with his superiors to be on the first wave to land at Utah beach. Understanding what awaited the first wave, Roosevelt’s superior officers refused. Yet with one request after the other, command finally relented to Roosevelt’s request.
The Commanding General of the 4th Division shook Roosevelt’s hand and later confessed that he fully expected never to see Roosevelt alive again. When the first wave did hit Utah beach, Roosevelt was there among the first wave and the American forces were fortunate to have him. The boats had drifted more than a mile south during the landing and the American troops were disoriented and in disarray. Yet, General Roosevelt could be calmly seen walking up and down the beach taking stock of the situation with little regard for the enemy fire around him.
That’s when General Roosevelt uttered the words, “We’ll start the war from right here then.” You see, Roosevelt understood that there was no do over. The men may have wanted to be somewhere else, but the reality is that they were a mile south and that’s where the war would start. I’m going to submit to my fellow GWOT vets that we cannot go back and undo our experience anymore than those men could swim back across the English Channel and try it again.
We find ourselves with an ending to GWOT that none of us wanted, but the war for purpose and passion starts right here. Even if the past 20 years have been hard on you mentally, physically, or spiritually, the war for passion and purpose starts right here. Who rules Kabul is of no consequence to what lies ahead of you. That’s up to you and you have every reason to pursue passion and purpose in the here and now because there are those who need you now.
A Reason To Be Present In The Here And Now
Because the GWOT experience spanned some 20 years, it is hard to define exactly where each and every GWOT vet is in life right now. I actually know a Marine who had just become a new father in 2002 and now, because his now 18 year old kid apparently has game, the guy was actually grandfather on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Consider that for just a minute. A first time father at the beginning of the war and a grandfather by the end of that war.
However, let that be our first focus now that the war that shaped us has come to an unceremonious close. Our children must become our primary concern. They already experienced many of us gone for months
or a year at a time on deployment, they do not now deserve to lose you again from scars both mental and spiritual as a result of this war. They deserve our presence in the here and now and who rules Kabul is of little concern to them.
I mourn for the girls of Afghanistan, I truly do. However, the girls that wake up each morning and call me Dad are my primary concern. So it should be for you and whether you call them kids or grandkids, they need every bit of you in the here and now.
Leave Nothing Behind And That Includes The Benefits You
My war experience was some 18 years ago in Iraq and yet, despite most of those years experiencing debilitating back pain, it was only a little over a year ago before I filed my first VA claim. I guess I always thought that someone else deserved it more than me and my back pain was hardly comparable to those who gave so much more. However, when the back pain hit a 10 out of 10 daily, I relented. Pain has a unique way of breaking pride.
Now that the GWOT experience has finally come to a close, I want to implore every veteran of that war to step up and claim every benefit to which you are entitled. Now is the time to claim what that experience earned you and if the politicians are going to screw up the end of the war, they can at least pay for what they did to us in the process.
A future without precedent awaits you and if medical care for debilitating back pain is what you need to pursue that future, go get it. If the VA denies, you keep going. The war for your passion and purpose starts right here and I implore you to leave nothing behind in the pursuit of that passion and purpose. Valor 4 Vet stands ready to assist veterans in that pursuit. This wasn’t the ending we asked for when it comes to GWOT, but there is still time to create the future we deserve.
One Chapter Ends and New Chapter Begins
We did a thing that can never be undone and the Taliban can never take that away. We have plans to pursue passion and purpose today and the Taliban are no barrier. We have children who need us now and dwelling on patrols and doors kicked in during conflicts long past are of no use to them. The war for our future starts right here and whoever rules Kabul doesn’t get a say in that future.
What’s next for us all?
That’s up to
you and if Valor 4 Vet can help you in that endeavor, don’t hesitate to reach