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Central Texas veterans weigh in on Afghanistan conflict

Posted at 9:17 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 13:05:48-04

Over the past few weeks, the world has watched the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban sweep the country much faster than anyone expected.

As U.S. citizens and many others are fighting to get out of Afghanistan after the Taliban quickly overran the country, Central Texas veterans are watching and reflecting on the time they spent serving in Afghanistan.

Veterans who served there are left with mixed feelings about the withdrawal and how it has played out.

”You know President Biden made a decision, and I can respect that he made a decision, but what he should have done is have plans in place in case this happened," said John Valentine, U.S Army veteran who served in Afghanistan from 2004-05. "Now we have 6,000 soldiers going to the airports to make sure it’s safer at least for the people leaving the country.”

After serving in Afghanistan, many veterans find themselves asking, what was the point?

”With all that work put into it and you see what happens [now] ... it’s disappointing," said Damon Cleaton, U.S. Army veteran who served from 2013-14. "It hits you in the gut like 'Hey, I spent all this time and all this effort and what was it for.'”

Many express that the images of fear and desperation only add to the disappointment, knowing that people are fleeing for their lives.

Men, women and children are attempting to get out before the Taliban intercepts.

”That’s how people should look at that country," said Valentine. "They’re just as scared for their safety as we would be in our country. There are good people in Afghanistan that deserved to live the way they should be able to live.”

Most veterans knew the U.S. wasn’t staying in Afghanistan forever, but some are saying they believe this withdrawal was poorly handled and that past operations like World War II show America can do better.

”Rebuilding Europe, rebuilding Germany, rebuilding Japan we had a cohesive plan and we stuck to it," said Cleaton. "Eventually, we have left all those places on the terms of an occupier, and in many cases, we have stayed and become friends and allies.”

Valentine and Cleaton know they are not the only soldiers that are struggling with this withdraw and want them all to know that they are not alone.

”Reach out to one of the services like VFW and get with some buddies, some battle buddies, and let's sit down and talk about this and work through this together,” said Valentine.

Valentine and Cleaton both agree that this could’ve been handled better and that soldiers have a community.

”Battle buddies will help you through it," said Cleaton. "I mean we went through a lot together, and we can still get through a lot if we keep working with each other.”