An Open Letter to All Who Served: You Made a Difference

Art delaCruz

We, as leaders of our respective veteran service organizations, have a message for all those that served alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Over the past weeks, the world has watched in dismay as the Taliban moved in to Kabul unopposed by the Afghan government, beginning a new chapter in the country’s complicated history. With the American flag now lowered over the US Embassy and as the deadline for complete withdrawl looms, the veteran community began to manage through a range of emotions, from grief and shock, to anger and confusion. We, as leaders of our respective veteran service organizations, have a message for all those that served alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan: You made a difference, and you are still needed.

Amidst the current chaos and the noise surrounding the last 20 years of warfare in Afghanistan, there is one undeniable truth. We fought with courage and honor, and we did all that we could. Every one of us volunteered to serve our country during a time of war, and whether we changed the lives of 20 or 20 million, we made a difference. We fought, we built, we trained, and we tried to make the lives of the Afghan people better. We did not join to serve a political aim, a particular administration or a national security strategy. We served for our country, for the soldier, sailor, airman and Marine to our left and right, and we served with courage and honor.

Now, we feel the frustration of being out of the fight, and grow increasingly dissatisfied with the ending. We are impatient and are urgently advocating across the country through our voices, words and actions to implore our leaders to keep the promise that we made to the allies who fought alongside us. There are thousands of Afghan interpreters, fixers, drivers and other brave men and women who helped to ensure that American forces had what they needed for mission success over the last two decades. We promised them Special Immigrant Visa status so that they could one day bring their families to America, and it would be unacceptable for us to leave them behind now when their lives depend on us keeping that promise.

During the last 20 years, those that deployed to Afghanistan became a part of that country, through the blood, sweat, and tears of our fellow servicemembers. For each, that is now a part of your story, but that story has another chapter that is waiting to be written. While your watch in Afghanistan has ended, you are very much needed here at home. Our country is facing challenges and problems that need solutions-focused and battle-tested leaders. You have the skills and the experience to provide that leadership and to heal a country in turmoil. Moreover, your fellow veterans are here, are assembled, and are ready to bring you in to your new tribe. Each of us was drawn to the organizations that we now lead because they offered us an opportunity to serve once again alongside other veterans. Now, we work to build better, stronger communities with veterans in the lead, and we continue to experience the pride and inspiration that come from making an impact on the lives of our fellow Americans. Join us as we work together to build a stronger nation here at home, striving always to make the most of our next 20 years.

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