Ten years ago today, I was glued to CNN as reports of air attacks on the Taliban were coming in. Images of explosions with night vision filters replaced comedy bits on The Daily Show and reruns of The Simpsons. I was a junior in high school but felt my real place was on the battlefield.
I remember the optimism of those times. We were striking back after the attacks on September 11 with a sense of purpose. Our last war in the Middle East stunned the world with its ease and quickness. A few mujahedeen hiding in caves were no match for an American military force. It was even possible the war would be over by the time I could join.
Little did I know, it would keep going for 10 more years. I would never get my chance to go (Iraq was my eventual destination), but hundreds of thousands of fellow Veterans have. It has gone from the “just” war to one that serves as a backdrop to debates over the defense budget and questions about future foreign policy. But those who humped the Hindu Kush know Afghanistan in a different way; as a place of defining moments, of close calls and howling laughter and crushing boredom. Their Afghanistan is not one the country knows. As Veterans return home and filter into classrooms and offices across the country, I hope that begins to change.
We mark a decade of continuous war, but the effects of it will be felt for decades more. Just as my grandfather deals with the effect of the Korean War today, Veterans will carry Afghanistan for the rest of their lives. Let’s ensure that we help carry it with them.