A critical point I sought to make in an earlier blog post needs to be buttressed a bit given the criticism that continues to pour in over the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has informed us what many of us already knew. Which was that the service of the men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq “was not in vain.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said this about our withdrawal from the field of battle: “We have just concluded the largest air evacuation of civilians in American history. It was heroic. It was historic.”
To say these individuals “died in vain” is to slather a hideous insult over the heroism many of them displayed. I am one proud American veteran who will not sit still while others suggest that the service performed in Iraq and Afghanistan was flushed away, that it was all for naught.
The men and women of our armed forces followed lawful orders from the top of the chain of command. They served through four commanders in chief. They fought hard and they fought with valor. Some of them received our nation’s highest military commendations, including the Medal of Honor. Do we dare suggest that these recipients performed their heroic acts “in vain”? Or that their comrades died in vain?
“Your service mattered, and it was not in vain,” Gen. Milley said. “We will continue to evacuate American citizens under the leadership of the Department of State as this mission has now transitioned from a military mission to a diplomatic mission.”
And so the mission continues, but in a different form.
I participated for a time in a war that didn’t end well for the United States of America. The Vietnam War ended with chaos, confusion and panic. Yes, there were those who said the 58,000 Americans who died in that war perished “in vain.” They, too, were as wrong as they could be.
Their service mattered as well. As did those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. They all have earned our nation’s gratitude.