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Local veterans disappointed of fallout in Afghanistan

The Coachella Valley is home to a wide array of veterans, including those who served in the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Veterans have expressed dismay and disappointment over the recent turn of events in what appears to be a swift end to the nearly 20-year war.

The country's capital suffered a crushing blow after the Taliban overtook Kabul on Sunday, causing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee his post.

"It’s very difficult to watch," said veteran, Efrain Diaz.

At least five people died on Monday and many others were injured during a chaotic bout of panic as people attempted to flee at the Kabul International Airport, according to local media reports.

"First I do want to salute the skill and professionalism of our military forces in Afghanistan who did complete a safe drawdown of our embassy. Our embassy is now closed and our diplomatic presence is secured at the Kabul Airport. Now our military is working to secure that airfield-- as desperate civilians are going to go there seeking to get out-- to secure it so that we can run a series of evacuation flights for American citizens who are in Kabul, for Afghans who have worked for us in the past, and for other vulnerable Afghans," National Security Advisor to President Biden, Jake Sullivan said to CBS This Morning.

For local veterans, what has transpired over the last week hasn't been easy to watch.

"I feel like they weren’t prepared for this- honestly, everything that’s going on. It just reminds me all of friends and all the people that I knew, that I served with that got hurt or never came back home to be with their families," Diaz said.

As Diaz has watched the swift takeover of Kabul, he couldn't help but ask himself whether he did enough to support those living in Afghanistan so they could be capable of taking care of themselves.

"To me it hits me like maybe I didn’t do enough as I was out there, Diaz said.

Diaz served in the war in 2009. After nearly two decades of American forces oversees, Sunday marked a pivotal moment-- a Taliban takeover and the Afghan president fleeing his post in defeat.

"I am mixed in my feelings about the whole thing. I am also relieved that I know that I’m not going to hear us, US service members coming back from Afghanistan hurt, with PTSD, maimed or even killed. So I’m relieved on that front I don’t ever want to," Diaz said.

On the other hand, Diaz said there's also a sense of pride in joining the military.

"You don’t join the military because you want to join during a peaceful time. There’s people that want to join because they want to experience those moments of going out there and feeling like a service member, being able to protect the freedoms that they’ve earned," Diaz said.

Some troops who fought in the war have been honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

"The scars of combat and dealing with those veterans and losing friends and being wounded and being in difficult fights, whether it was any of these wars, you just see the emotional toll that it creates and I just can’t imagine, for somebody to lost somebody over there, to see after 20 years and the amount of of treasure and time and effort that we put in that, that it ends like this," Palm Springs Air Museum Vice Chairman, Fred Bell said.

Bell said it's also the Afghan men, women and children who will be left behind in an exodus he doesn't see ending well.

"Right now for that generation of veterans that fought in that conflict, if you know somebody, you need to reach out because there’s probably a myriad of emotions going through these people right now and it’s got to be very very difficult," Bell said.

For veterans who need support at this time, reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line here: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

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Shelby Nelson

Shelby Nelson is a News Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. She joined our team in September 2019. Learn more about Shelby here.

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