They All Went Out Together

A Father of one of the 13 U.S. military members who were lost at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan four days ago on August 26, 2021 told how his son had said that his brothers and sisters would take care of him, and now it seemed “that they all went out together.” That broke my heart. I served in Afghanistan and was fortunate to come home whole, but the memories always come back to me, especially when I hear of someone else who answered our country’s call and did not come home the same way that they went to the tip of the spear.

This is a story that continues from long ago and it has no end that we can see. Whether from direct conflict with our country’s core principles, a threat to us, a principled stand, or simply accidents during training or a failure in a complicated piece of machinery, it is so hard to see harm come to the heart and soul of America, its young people, our future, who stepped up to be our shield, our champions, our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, National Guard, Coast Guard, and Veterans, many of whom go back to those places as Contractors or as Humanitarians in Non-Government Organizations. Why do they contribute so much to our country and people?

The reasons vary: Honor, the desire to be honorable for our country; Tradition, often in American families, the next generation steps up to continue a multi-generational contribution to uniformed military service; Adventure, Some of the coolest “toys,” most exotic travels, and best friends are enjoyed by those who serve. At a retirement for a man who served for 30 years, someone who was one of the best and brightest I have ever met, when it was time for him to speak, all he could say was, “I can’t believe it’s over.” He wept.

Then, there are those who are affronted when our country is brazenly attacked. In my lifetime, I experienced that. At 9/11, I saw tens of thousands of Americans join me in the military ranks; they were pissed and spoiling for revenge. Now, over the last four days I hear that American toddlers at the time of 9/11 gave their last full measure in uniform trying to save Afghans who had earned the right for America to save them.

It is so hard to hear the stories about who they were, knowing that they did not get to live their lives fully, and that they did not pass peacefully in their sleep. But, don’t turn that off, and don’t shy away from it. If you don’t understand it, watch actor Kevin Bacon’s master piece, a film titled “Taking Chance.” Watch that, then you will not shy away from this sad news. You will embrace it, because you understand that every American is their witness. You owe it to them.

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