WACO, Texas — The images of people in Kabul rushing to airplanes as the Taliban takes power in Afghanistan have conveyed a sense of desperation for many, coupled with the blunt admission of failure from government leaders.
"The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated," President Biden said during a press conference on Tuesday.
A report from U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction identified the effort to rebuild Afghanistan by successive U.S. Administrations as a struggle to develop a coherent strategy.
The billions in U.S.-supplied Afghan military equipment now in the hands of the Taliban, which has taken in the other hand, political power.
Now, an all out rush by the U.S. government to find Americans left behind in the rapidly changing nation, and the frantic effort in bringing them and fleeing Afghan citizens to safety.
It's a story still unwinding, but one that strikes a familiar and unfortunate cord for those who experienced the fall of South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese in April 1975. The frantic scene, which played out at the Kabul Airport of refugees fleeing, has generated frequent comparisons to the images of helicopters rescuing evacuees from Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam.
"I've seen many things left on the news, all the military equipment," said Daniel Thomas, a native Texan and Vietnam veteran.
"I think it's to be expected. The same thing happened in Vietnam," he remarked on the images of military equipment now in the hands of the Taliban.
Thomas is one Vietnam veteran you'll find in Waco today. He said he enjoys surfing in his free time and was reading the paper on a bench at Cameron Park early in the morning.
"I love the small town feel of Waco," he said.
Amid the dramatic images, playing out on the TV screen, of the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, Thomas said he believes it's the right decision.
"You know, it's hindsight, but we're getting out now," he said. "It was the right decision. We could be there 50 years and not change it. I think it's the correct thing to do."
Thomas said he feels deeply for the people in Afghanistan.
"I feel strongly for the people of Afghanistan," he said. "I knew a minister of agriculture from Afghanistan who came to Texas many years ago."
And U.S. Veterans from the war, seeing the situation play out today.
"I've got a nephew that served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and I don't know how he feels," he said. "I haven't talked to him about it yet. He had friends die over there. And I know a lot of people have had family members die over there. So I think it's hard for them to understand."
His remarks on Vietnam veterans returning from Vietnam in the 70s and how he and his fellow veterans, only in recent years, began hearing people say "thank you for your service."
He hopes U.S. veterans of the war in Afghanistan are finding a different amount of support today. A component of the story, still unraveling, he said has been missing.
"I think it's missed all the all the veterans that are suffering in America from these wars," Thomas said.
There are mental health resources available for Veterans and their families needing assistance in coping with the recent developments in Afghanistan. The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7, which you can text at 838255, or call at 1-800-273-8255.
#MentalHealthMonday: Check in on your buddies that you served with overseas.— House Veterans' Affairs GOP (@HouseVetAffairs) August 16, 2021
The Veterans Crisis Line is also available 24/7 for free, confidential support to any veteran or active-duty servicemember who needs to talk — you are #NotAlone.