LIKE many veterans of the Afghanistan war, I watched the news of Kabul falling rapidly to Taliban control with a variety of emotions; shock, anger, and resignation.
Many of my civilian friends have asked me for my views on the current situation and eventually they ask the perennial question asked of any veteran about war…” Was it worth it?”
Over the coming days and following weeks there will be a variety of debates based on that one question. In the end, it’s all about perspective.
Politicians will state the case from their policy view, journalists will form a view to suit their narrative and serving members will be constrained from giving their opinion as all serving military members from democratic nations should.
The answer to that simple question is far too complex for a media sound bite and will not fit into 128 characters or less for a social media comment.
However, I offer my view solely to help any veteran struggling to express how they feel about the current situation when asked by friends and family.
Australian soldiers, sailors, and airmen serve the democratically elected government of the day.
Our mission in Afghanistan was clear; to prevent that country from becoming a safe haven for future terrorists.
The ADF completed a variety of tasks to fulfill that mission from eliminating threats, training the Afghan army and police and providing humanitarian aid.
At times things went badly but we remained focused on the task and did our best to help people who have suffered indescribably.
All veterans build a bond with the various indigenous populations where we have served.
Many were as much our allies as our fellow soldiers.
We despair what the future will be for our Afghan friends but take solace in the fact that we were sincere in trying to bring stability to Afghanistan to enable their own people to at least stand a chance against the Taliban.
Unfortunately, the world is an imperfect place but by any measure, when you compare Afghanistan 2001 to Afghanistan today, we achieved our mission, but we had to leave at some time.
We lost 41 comrades in the war and many more returned home with physical and mental wounds that will never heal.
To suggest that they had died or sustained horrific injuries for no worthwhile reason is to insult the selfless service of our ADF.
There is no more noble profession than the military.
To voluntary place your life at risk for a foreign community and a different culture far from home requires both courage and compassion that many of the domestic commentators will never comprehend.
Many veterans will choose not to answer that perennial question to avoid a confrontation with people who don’t understand what you have seen that can’t be unseen.
However, there are people who do understand and won’t press you for a view.
They are your fellow veterans, and we are here to support each other.
Please reach out to your local RSL or other Ex- Service Organizations for any assistance.
No need to RSVP just turn up.
Stand tall, be proud of your service. You have done your duty.