By Sam Rogers, Wisconsin Coalitions Director
In 2009, I was preparing for my first deployment with the U.S. Army. My unit was training for engagement in Iraq when we received news that our plans had changed. We would be heading to Afghanistan instead as part of a troop surge that continued what was then eight years of combat.
I was fortunate to have experienced leaders with multiple combat tours under their belts. But all the experience and training in the world won’t fully prepare you for your first tour. Nothing can, really.
My unit was hit especially hard during our 2009-2010 deployment, more than we had anticipated. We were tasked with securing Kandahar Province, disrupting the enemy’s network and protecting other units.
Those jobs were not easy.
We spent long days and nights on patrol, surrounded by enemy combatants. My unit lost 40 soldiers, and an additional 300 were wounded. We suffered physical and emotional trauma over the year we were deployed.
A characteristic of the war in Afghanistan has been the need for multiple deployments. Our all-volunteer force was stretched thin even in 2009, so many were called on to deploy several times. I watched those around me, especially those with multiple deployments, carry the heavy burden of traumatic experiences and mental strain.
For my unit, the wounds of combat, visible and invisible, followed us when we returned stateside in 2010. Those experiences and traumas were internalized.
Since that deployment and the two that followed, I’ve seen what endless war can do. Suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism, divorce, and post-traumatic stress have eaten away at the troops I served with.
It’s been gut-wrenching to watch brokenness and guilt take hold of brave men and women.
These are the side-effects of almost 20 years of constant war.
This is why I fight to convince our nation’s leaders to rethink our foreign policy. My brothers and sisters in uniform are still fighting a war that has been over for years, coming back needlessly hurt and broken. I want to protect my fellow service members from the strain of constant, endless war that serves no vital national interest.
I don’t question my decision to join the Army. I would do it again in a heartbeat, as I know many of my fellow service members would. But it came at a high price. To honor the sacrifices we’ve all made, it’s time for the United States to get serious about removing troops from Afghanistan.
Do you agree that it’s time to withdraw from Afghanistan and help end endless wars? Let Washington know!