Yesterday, social media was riddled with beautiful pictures from Ground Zero, flashback images from the attacks on our homeland 22 years ago, and hashtags imploring us to ‘Never Forget.’ These are all nice and good, and Americans should do their level best to honor those memories.
I, too, posted a remembrance and, like many of my veteran brothers and sisters, spent a fair amount of the day reminiscing about where I was when the airplanes turned into deadly projectiles and slammed into the iconic World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. But I also reflected on what that day did to my career and life overall, and how quickly our nation forgets.
I was pleased to see a refreshing exchange between Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Presidential nominee RFK Jr. on X, reflecting on the day and the subsequent forever war it sparked. Thanks to wise words from a fellow veteran, the two maverick powerhouses came together to call out the disastrous and destructive love affair between the political swamp and military complex.
September 11th, 2001, a day indelibly etched on the fabric of America. The truth is that I don’t just think about 9/11 on its anniversary; I think about 9/11 every day. That attack, and the years that followed, forged me into the leader, the tactician, the husband, the father,… pic.twitter.com/VsLBzxsCZo
— Jack Carr (@JackCarrUSA) September 11, 2023
The moral stain
Best-selling author and fellow veteran Jack Carr wrote last month reflections on the forever war he and I fought in and the glaring lack of accountability for those who perpetuated its eventual and obvious failure. He cut to the heart of what men and women like my husband and I felt and still feel deeply every day since the disastrous withdrawal:
“As we watch the U.S. embassy evacuation in Kabul and see images of the Taliban taking control of the country, to those of us who fought there it is more than a strategic failure, it’s personal.”
It’s been almost two years.
For those interested, my thoughts on, not just the withdrawal from Afghanistan but the close to twenty years that preceded it and what amounts to almost zero accountability for senior level military officers, elected representatives, and appointed… pic.twitter.com/WlnEf4zR2m
— Jack Carr (@JackCarrUSA) August 11, 2023
I think when citizens hear veterans like Mr. Carr and myself speak to the very intimate nature of how we feel about Afghanistan’s failure, they recall our patriotism and physical and emotional wounds – which, in part, is accurate. But it’s much deeper than that.
While not a special operator like Mr. Carr, I still spent almost half of my 20-year career deployed to Afghanistan or surrounding countries supporting the war in Afghanistan. I grew up fighting the war, my formative years were shaped by the war and what I was fed to believe about the war, and I gave up experiences my nonmilitary peers got to have to fight a war that was never going to be won.
Mr. Carr points out the real rub of it all:
“Strategically, our leaders were not held to account for their blunders – in too many cases, blunders of epic proportions. Rather, they were promoted and eventually retired with full pensions to sit on the boards of companies making a killing in the world of government contracts…”
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So, while those who swore to protect and defend, promised to lead, and have troops like me at the forefront of their decisions failed repeatedly, their reward was ribbons and more money. What reward did I and all the other veterans lucky enough to come home get?
Something we can agree on
Presidential candidate and bane of the Democrat Party RFK Jr. reposted Mr. Carr’s words, adding that:
“We learned nothing from Vietnam. The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake again and again and expecting different results. By this definition, the entire retinue of American leadership is insane.”
Every American should read this post mortem on Afghanistan. And every American politician —Republican and Democrat — and every Pentagon panjandrum who supported this catastrophe should hang their heads in shame. We learned nothing from Vietnam. The definition of insanity is… https://t.co/IJiJwk0aFZ
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) September 11, 2023
Regarding our involvement in the war in Ukraine, Mr. Kennedy rightly compares our blind hubris in Afghanistan and what we hear from our political and military leaders regarding our requirement to dive into Ukraine.
To put it simply, Mr. Kennedy once said:
“We’ve turned that nation into a proxy war between – a pawn in a proxy war between Russia and the United States.”
It begs the question…given how our Afghan allies we abandoned undoubtedly view us now, how will the people of Ukraine see us when we inevitably leave them high and dry with nothing but incomplete infrastructure and empty promises to show for ourselves?
Republican Senator Rand Paul joined Mr. Kennedy in attacking the Uniparty, writing:
“Both parties are to blame for perpetual war. Not a dimes worth of difference between Republican & Democrat leadership.”
So what’s to be done about this unfortunate foreign policy merry-go-round we seem to be strapped into? Is there hope that we won’t continue to make the same mistakes, dooming our children and children’s children to fight ill-conceived wars for the benefit of overly-educated pressed suits in DC and the five-sided building?
Both parties are to blame for perpetual war. Not a dimes worth of difference between Republican & Democrat leadership. https://t.co/8qh2Np2PZl
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 11, 2023
Don’t talk to me about memories
I suppose I should be more hopeful about the future, but hope isn’t a strategy and doesn’t get one very far if change is needed. I was 18 years old and already in the military on September 11th, 2001.
I can remember watching the attacks on television, feeling the overwhelming confusion and worry as to what would happen to all of us freshly minted out of basic military training. I can recall listening to and watching the President on television in the base dining facility, feeling pride that I had raised my right hand before the attacks, and believing that I was about to be a part of something bigger than myself – a part of history.
I would spend 20 years fighting that doomed war, sacrificing my youth and my time, precious time that so many of my friends who didn’t come home alive now no longer have–fighting a war dictated by military star-struck politicians and Generals too concerned with the next post-retirement job to be bothered with the realities on the ground in that war. I started my military career young, proud, and full of hope.
I would retire shortly after the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. I ended my military career scarred, ashamed of my leaders, and full of anger.
I haven’t forgotten about 9/11, and I never will, but I can tell you that those in DC and the Pentagon have long forgotten and are banking on the rest of you to forget as well. Senator Paul and Mr. Kennedy aren’t wrong, and they are the true patriots in the system because they dare to question the military elite and war-hungry politicians eager for a photo op with military brass.
Blind allegiance to those who claim to bleed red, white, and blue but have no concept of actual sacrifice isn’t patriotic; it’s ignorant and cowardly. Keep speaking the truth, Mr. Carr, Mr. Paul, and Mr. Kennedy – your fellow patriots appreciate it.
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