by Nate LaMar
I can’t sleep; the fall of Kabul has me too upset. I don’t pretend to be a combat veteran. But I’m very saddened as we spent too much time (20 years), talent (friends’ lives lost), and treasure (billions). I’m not here to debate policy mistakes; just very distraught and concerned, not only for the future of women and girls in Afghanistan, but also for those who helped us, and for veterans who served there.
This past weekend, my social media and email have “blown-up,” with veterans trying to get former translators and their families out by any means necessary, to include getting members of Congress personally involved. A photo of a helicopter over the US Embassy in Kabul is hauntingly reminiscent of a similar photo atop the US Embassy in Saigon on April 30, 1975, when South Vietnam fell.
A friend since childhood, Eric Creviston of Muncie (who also served as Superintendent of Blue River Valley schools), was in the Indiana National Guard when his unit helped to establish Afghanistan’s military academy. Later, Afghanistan began sending cadets to West Point. One, in particular, whose name I cannot publish for security reasons, is currently struggling to get his family out of Afghanistan (I am helping to get an Illinois Congressman involved with his family’s case).
My class’ only Afghanistan casualty was Jim Walton of Boston, MA. He and I had a few Arabic classes together. Jim initially branched Infantry, but later became an Aviation officer. He served in Germany, Haiti, Korea, Honduras, and Iraq. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Walton was killed in action in Kandahar by an improvised explosive device (IED) on June 21, 2008. A nearby Forward Operating Base (FOB) was named FOB Walton. It served as a training facility for the Afghan Army’s Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy and Joint Readiness Training Center. I shudder to think the Taliban are now using FOB Walton.
On average, there are 22 military/veteran suicides per day. My West Point class has lost more to suicide than we have to combat. Thanks to Indiana’s annual Run For The Fallen, I have come to know several fellow veteran distance runners. These include Eric Michael of Ferdinand, IN. He served in Helmand Province in 2009, where he lost many fellow marines, but has lost a few others from his unit to suicide since then. Recently, he decided to run 22 miles to highlight the fact that we are losing 22 per day to suicide. He has challenged others to run 22 miles or even 2.2 miles to bring attention to this sad fact.
With the fall of Afghanistan, my fear is that veteran suicide will increase. Therefore, I urge all of you reading this to visit, call, text, email, and/or mail any veterans you may know to make sure they are okay. When on active-duty, this was known as the “battle buddy” system. Too many veterans “self-medicate” and/or keep a weapon handy. Leaders (whether you were an officer or NCO), please try to contact your troops, even if you have fallen out of touch with them. For various reasons (young families, lengthy commutes to jobs, etc.), younger veterans tend not to be “joiners” of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, Amvets, etc. with their support structures. Therefore, please focus your contact efforts on younger veterans, who were more likely to have served in Afghanistan and/or Iraq.
Veterans, your efforts were not in vain. We, as Americans, support and want only the best for you. As in the Book of Worship for U.S. Forces, please be comforted by words of our National Hymn’s (God of Our Fathers) third stanza: “From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence, Be thy strong arm our ever sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase, Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.”
Nate LaMar serves as Military Academy Liaison Officer (West Point recruiter) for East-Central & Southeastern Indiana.