As the last American plane was departing Kabul, Afghanistan, this week, Team Rubicon volunteers in Colorado were wrapping up our first day of an operation to help resettle Afghans in the U.S. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) had reached out for help preparing housing for the influx of Afghan refugees arriving in Colorado and, in true Team Rubicon fashion, Greyshirts answered the call in droves.
We came prepared. We listened during our mission planning calls and we brought the tools, skills, and leaders to make good decisions in the field. For a lot of us, those were skills that had been acquired during our time in the service in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Vietnam. Those skills and that listening paid off when it came to the operation execution phase: The strike team I was assigned to quickly got to work.
Immediately, were able to go the extra mile and crush our first of possibly many work orders. Not only did we do some heavy lifting, but we were also able to provide a few soft touches as well. Sure, we moved bed frames, sofas, tables, and some 200-pound dressers, but we also helped by putting clothes on hangers in closets, folding bathroom towels, and sorting silverware in kitchen drawers. These were small gestures, but little things like this can help transform a place to live into a home.
So much has happened over the last couple of weeks, and it’s been hard to put into words my own thoughts as 20 years of war come to an end.
For me, and perhaps others on the team today who served in Afghanistan, moving donated household goods into a small apartment with a distant view of the Rocky Mountains for an Afghan family that has sacrificed so much was more healing than anything else I’ve done lately. Doing my part for this family helped heal some of my war wounds—wounds I didn’t know were still open.
I was living in my first Colorado apartment when our country first went into the war on terror in Afghanistan 20 years ago. A year later, I signed up to join the Navy, and it was absolutely a result of 9/11. I served on a personal protection detail, so I was in and out of Afghanistan in my time overseas. I had plenty of interaction with Afghan citizens over the years, and almost all of those experiences were positive.
Back then, I would never have imagined that, 20 years later, I’d be part of a crew helping move an Afghan family into their first apartment in the United States. The family we were helping is getting a well-deserved fresh start in Colorado. They lost many loved ones over the last decade supporting coalition forces in Afghanistan and it’s a miracle they made it out. We want them to feel welcome because we’re glad they’re here.
Talk about coming full circle.