In between training Afghan troops and carrying heavy equipment as an infantryman in mountainous rugged terrain, Afghanistan war veteran, Chad Garcia said he recalled those moments of getting to know the Afghan people.
On his 30th birthday, Garcia said his unit had rolled a vehicle and were stuck in a particular location for some time. Locals there came up to them, fed them rice, goat’s milk and chicken. Along the way, he met a man and struck up a conversation with him.
“He had three daughters with him, and I had a daughter, and we were talking about family and children,” Garcia said. “[Now] I’m watching these people flee into the airport today, 20 years later, and seeing the people react to what’s happening, I remember what he told me: All he wanted was his daughters, specifically his daughters, to learn how to read.”
Three times Garcia was deployed there over two decades, seeing infrastructure slowly being built as the U.S. attempted to help Afghanistan become a democracy.
Prior to these efforts, the Taliban governed the country then known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This extremist group even sheltered Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the attacks on 9/11 almost 20 years ago, according to the Associated Press. In the course of the past week, major Afghan cities fell to the Taliban once more.
“Knowing what’s coming back into power in Afghanistan right now, all day long I haven't stopped being able to think about this guy and his daughters, and knowing that the Taliban is not going to let them do that,” Garcia said. “Their freedoms are definitely going to be cut short.”
Six thousand U.S. troops have been deployed to assist in the evacuation process of Americans and Afghan people that aided U.S. personnel throughout the past two decades while they were stationed in Afghanistan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Sunday afternoon that “President Biden must stop finding excuses for his own mistakes and address the country in person with how he plans to secure U.S. national interests, protect our personnel on the ground, assist the Afghan allies who have helped us and prevent the resurgence of Al-Qaeda.”
Garcia said he’s not surprised that the Taliban took over so quickly. At one point during deployment, Garcia's unit went up against the Haqqani, an offshoot of the Taliban.
"It's like Hydra: you cut one head off, another one grows back,” Garcia said “So did I encounter the Taliban? I encountered enough of its little fingers to know exactly what the Taliban is all about."
Garcia explained that the Taliban is more complex than people may realize.
“Somebody commented on one of my Facebook posts and said, ‘I thought we had the Taliban on the run.’ Just because you hadn’t heard of the Taliban, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there,” Garcia said. “There are warlords, factions and ISIS was there. Once they saw us withdraw, there’s a vacuum of fighters who fall in line with this mentality.”
Garcia wants veterans to know that they did not fail, to stay positive and focus on their current lives.
“Soldiers win battles, politicians lose wars, and that’s what we’re seeing right now. We did nothing wrong, we did our jobs. Sure there were losses, my unit just had an anniversary of my soldier that was killed on August 7 nine years ago,” Garcia said. “So we definitely suffered some losses, we all have pain we brought home, war tends to follow you. But there’s no failure here among the veteran community.”
Here are a list of local veteran support groups Garcia pointed to: