CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46) —Local veterans are reacting to the chaos ensuing in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized the capital city, Kabul. After giving up so much, for so long, many are left feeling disappointed and disheartened.
FOX 46 spoke to four local veterans and got their take on the downfall of a country they sacrificed everything to protect.
Aside from being physically and mentally able, Adam Stead explained one of the main, if not most important, requirements to join the military.
“It’s just the desire to serve the country,” Stead said simply.
Stead was in Afghanistan for 10 months. He started as an infantry officer, but later became a helicopter pilot.
“My co-pilot, Pat, and I were flying a security mission on a pretty kinetic day if you will. So we were providing security for a medivac helicopter doing a hoist mission and a lot of rounds were going around and two of them caught us, one caught Pat in the leg and one caught me in the head.”
But with American grit and determination, Stead was able to recover and come home to his wife and son. After giving up so much, and watching the fall of a country he helped protect, Stead didn’t have much to say on the current state of Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, what can you do? Um, we can’t change situations. So it’s just sad, I feel like the way it is going down. But I don’t know what to say.”
Dan Cloninger, now a retired C-30 Navigator for the North Carolina Air National Guard, spent two years of his life on and off in Afghanistan.
“You know, we’re back to where we started, except for the Taliban has more equipment, they have bigger runways on the airfields, they have bigger hangars, they have better equipment. And, you know, it makes me mad, you know, for what all we have done in the last 20 years,” Cloninger said.
The United States is sending 6,000 troops to help facilitate the process of evacuations in Kabul.
“I’ve talked to a few of my friends who I served with, you know, and pretty much no matter your political views, the feelings are the same. There’s madness in their sadness. And, you know, we have totally erased the last 20 years. And there’s something too hard to get over,” Cloninger explained.
Jason Conrad, a retired Marine, is not as concerned with the withdrawal of troops, but rather the execution of the withdrawal that has left thousands of Americans stranded in Afghanistan.
“This is poor planning, we should have, we should have been prepared for this type of situation. Our Americans definitely should not be over there. And trapped,” Conrad said.
Conrad’s biggest fear is a real threat now, especially for Afghan citizens who have worked with Americans over the last two decades.
“My biggest fear is the people that do not get out, what the Taliban will do to them. We’ve seen in the past, what they’re capable of and what they do,” Conrad said.
“There’s proof that they helped us. And if the Taliban sees that they’re dead, you know, those people or are dead, you know, the Taliban will either kill them, behead them, you know, the Taliban are ruthless people,” Cloninger said.
Blake Bourne is also concerned about the veterans coming back home and still recovering from deployments.
“We need to help them transition home, there are real consequences with going to war. But there’s also just normal consequences of having lived in the military system, and then coming back to a city like Charlotte or anywhere in the Carolinas,” Bourne said.
Bourne is the Executive Director at the Veterans Bridge Home in Charlotte. The VBH helps veterans all across the Carolinas. If you are a veteran and struggling during these trying times, reach out to VBH: 5260 Parkway Plaza Blvd Suite 110 at (704) 332-8802.