I usually go out of my way to avoid emotional discussions. After all, they often lead to completely unproductive arguments. Emotionalism is the realm of those who cannot bear the harsh truth of existence, and as such, it often causes big problems when it runs smack dab into a harsh reality.
That said, I cannot promise you any such article today. My ability to remove my emotions from what I am about to write is impossible. Yet, to not write it would be to betray people whom I hold dear. How can do I that?
Interpreters (terps), base personnel, on-base vendors, village liaisons, and various others became as much a part of "us" as any of us. Ahmud, the barber on the base where I served, was as much a part of my mental health in Iraq as anyone else. He would talk while he cut my hair. We discussed politics, religion, life, and he would tell me stories about his family. The thought that he and his family may have been killed in Iraq after we left is devastating to me, but shortly after we turned the base over to the Iraqi's, he stopped answering his e-mail.
I hope he got the asylum that he was seeking. I hope that he and his family are living safely somewhere in America right now. I hope that he gets to make his prayers without having to worry that some zealot might attack him for "denying his faith" by helping the Americans. To be honest, I cannot promise you that he did not give me a false name, after all it would be reasonable with the fear that he lived in.
I have to believe that this happened. I am not sure I can emotionally bear the cost of not believing it.
It is a similar, but not so deeply felt story, with the tailor, two of the interpreters, and one Iraqi contractor who was working with us and the Russians as a joint coordinator. Heck, he was even helping me with my Russian. (By the way, I still am no good)
These are not, "those people," to us, they are OUR PEOPLE. And to us, leaving them behind is no different than leaving behind another US Service member. As Shakespeare wrote in King Henry V:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin, Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
The bonds of brotherhood formed on the battlefield are just that, a brotherhood. And as I watch my veteran friends attempt to figure out how to get their brothers out, as I watch them form organizations to do so, as I read stories of them using satellites and intel to help guide THEIR interpreter and their family around the Taliban to get them out, I remember that I would do that, and more, if I could get Ahmud out.
It might not be the same as some of the people that spent days in MRAPs with these terps, but we all grow close to different people for different reasons.
That is why it makes me so disgustingly sick to read and listen to all of these people saying that we should not be taking the "refugees" from Afghanistan. I do not care if it is being posted by a Conservative, a Liberal, or a Libertarian, it boils my blood within me; and I can no longer remain silent.
We are not just flying out random civilians from Afghanistan. Most of the random ones leaving have either crossed the Pakistani border or have gotten out by their own means. The ones that you are seeing at the airport trying to board those planes? They are the ones who helped us, and their families. The very people we asked them to put in danger to help us.
If we abandon them, they are as good as dead. We will have signed their death warrants after they risked not only their everything, but the everything of their family to help us.
Let's be CLEAR: These are not immigrants who we HOPE will do good things for us and work hard. These are refugees who ALREADY have done so much for us and who put their lives on the line to protect the very troops that you portend to "support."
Sorry, but if you will throw out the people who supported us in country, who mean as much to us as our brothers, then you do not really support us, you support the "ideal" of a Soldier that exists only in your mind.
We do not want your pity, pity is undeserved anyway. We do not want your charity, charity implies that you are doing something out of the goodness of your heart.
No, we want America to HONOR its commitment to these men and women who put their lives, their family's lives, their children's lives on the line for our country and for us.
There is nothing undeserved or "out of goodness" about it. They have earned it.
I can tell you from conversations with my veteran friends, that if you want to get punched in the mouth, go ahead and spout that nonsense about "refugees" from Afghanistan and Iraq in front of them. At this point they will likely be glad to oblige you.
So, if you really want to support the troops, the ACTUAL AND REAL troops and not some idealized straw man that you have created in your own mind, then listen to us begging, pleading, and demanding that our country do the right thing and get OUR PEOPLE out of there.
I am sorry, Ahmud, that I could not do more. Wherever you are, I can only pray that my fighting for those like you who mean so much to us can in some way repay both your kindness and your sacrifice.
You are just as much an American Hero as I am.
Even if there are those who refuse to accept it.