kids in front of shot up rusty car in destroyed town

The End of the War in Afghanistan

A Collective Reflection and a Call for Open Conversation from Members of the Special Operations Community

It is challenging, maybe impossible, to find acceptable words to describe the thoughts, feelings, and reflections that have coursed through our mind – and heart – the past several weeks. We believe we are no different than anyone else in our special operations community. For 20 years, our brave men and women have borne the brunt of repeated deployment and loss in the Global War on Terror. These past few weeks delivered a devastating moment of reckoning to our service members and their families, as we are all intimately aware of the cost and sacrifice paid since 9-11-2001. It is certain our community has not forgotten what launched the War on Terror, the cost of the War on Terror, nor the debts owed to those that fought along our side.

The unfolding of the American military pullout evokes feelings of anger, worry, grief, humiliation, and panic as our community, and thankfully the broader public, digest the horrific images, jarring updates, and the disturbing end to the war in Afghanistan. There is no peace that can emanate from leaving Americans or allies knowing the threat they would and are certainly confronting. 

For those who deliberately choose military service, particularly in a time of war, we expect the ugly, but you can not prepare yourself for the way it colors your soul. But to some degree you enter service bracing for certain associated sacrifice. Yet, amid hardship there is an expectation that the effort and toil will be rewarded. This spurs hope. A hope for good for family, loved ones, and neighbors. Hope that promises all people – sons and daughters of all colors from all nations – the chance to achieve. This hope fuels courage and good in the darkest places. 

Amid the devastating loss of 13 service member lives, gut-wrenching on-the-ground realities, fear for Afghan allies and partners, and intense concern for the mental wellness of our community and greater military brethren, we should all strive to: 

1.   Work to slow our thoughts, 

2.   Focus on our immediate circle, 

3.   Reflect on personal factors that make military service meaningful,

4.   Anchor that meaning in tradition and history. 

Admittedly, these actions are small; but all things start small. All things need a foundation, a base, something to ground it. The War in Afghanistan’s “end” is devastating, but from these shadows – that began with the fall of the twin towers – may we find our center again. As we look to support our elite service members and their families in these months and years ahead, may their determination for peace and justice ignite a new hope for our nation. If we can channel the innovation, courage, and love our special operations veterans have shown these past several weeks; pulling together to first check on each other then to save countless American and allied lives, then we can find hope in our future. When service is tethered to shared values like these, there is always purpose; and there is nothing more American than this. Together we commit to being a light in the darkness because our service if nothing more is marked by innovative action, courage in spite of uncertainty, and a ceaseless love for humanity.

Signed by,

KaLea Lehman, MSOF Executive Director

SEAL Future Foundation CEO Ty Bathurst

All Secure Foundation

Operation Healing Forces

Special Forces Shield Maidens

Special Operations Association of America

5by5 Performance Therapy

B. Christopher Frueh, Ph.D.

Andrew Marr, Warrior Angels Foundation Co-founder and Chairman

Andy McIndoe, Executive Director, Warrior Angels Foundation

Herb Thompson, Author of The Transition Mission

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