To my fellow veterans who have bravely served in Afghanistan over the last two decades, and to all the Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice, my message to you can best be summed up in three short words: We did good.
I know it might not feel that way in this immediate moment.
Ten years ago, when I put down my backpack on an IED during my third tour in Afghanistan and lost portions of both arms and legs, I was feeling angry, hurt, depressed and hopeless — many of the emotions we are experiencing right now. I have been there. I feel your pain. Since my injury, I have spent the majority of my second chance at life trying to live life to the fullest, helping other veterans overcome a range of mental challenges and physical obstacles while building a close-knit veteran community.
So, my message is simple: Afghanistan wasn't all for nothing. It was because of us, those who have served, that some good things did in fact happen.
We did good.
We built and dug wells to provide fresh drinking water to the Afghan people.
We built schools so that more of the population had access to education, including women and children.
We provided modernized Western medicine and provided medical assistance in the region.
We built hospitals.
We also helped with the local economy and commerce by hiring Afghans to build infrastructure.
These are all tools that the population will hopefully still be able to use even after we leave.
We did good.
Could the pullout have been handled logistically better? Of course. We probably should have left Afghanistan a long time ago. But don't let recent events erase all the positive that we did to make the country better. It wasn't all in vain, and as hard as it might be, I hope there is some comfort in that.
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Story produced by Sara Kugel.
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