RICHARDSON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Billy Howell Jr. says his mission began in Afghanistan more than a month after the 9/11 terror attacks.
"When you become a Green Beret, that's what you dream of: You dream of going in and liberating a country."
A Green Beret, Howell was part of Task Force Dagger and a member of the Operational Detachment Alpha 515, and said he regularly had to ride on horseback along with CIA teams and Afghani freedom fighters.
It wasn't his first time on a horse, but Howell said he had to adapt to the treacherous terrain in Afghanistan. "Yeah, I rode a horse, but I wasn't a cowboy. Whenever the terrain is straight up and straight down and the paths are this wide, you got to go 20 miles, that's how they got around."
Howell said with the help of the U.S. Marines, they were able to overthrew the Taliban and liberated the city of Kandahar, the nation's second largest city, weeks later.
"It's a sense of accomplishment, it's like we done this. This is awesome."
When it comes to Afghanistan today, Howell has a mix of emotions.
He said the U.S. military's mission went on far too long.
"Get it done and go home. 20 years? Really? We're the damn United States of America - what part of that is not awesome?"
Howell also said he's angry the Taliban has regained control of Afghanistan.
"We were over there for nothing. Went over there for nothing. That's how I feel. Imagine being a part of a war for 20 years and two weeks after you leave, it's right back into the hands it was in before you got there. It's like c'mon man, really?"
He said he would have hoped Afghanistan's army would have been able to defeat the Taliban.
Even so, Howell said his sense of honor can never be erased.
"Everybody that went over there needs to be proud. We did it with pride, and we did it because we were told that was needed to be done to help these people, to help that country. Yes, we loved it. I loved being there."
Howell will be speaking at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Rockwall County Veterans Memorial at the county courthouse.
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