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Savannah veterans disheartened by recent events in Afghanistan

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 4:46 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It has been less than a week since the announcement that American troops would be removed from Afghanistan triggered chaos in that country - with the Taliban taking control.

Military members who spent years there have had emotional reactions to the situation. A group of local veterans who served together in Afghanistan told WTOC how they felt seeing what is happening in a country they once worked hard to protect.

The images out of Afghanistan this week have been difficult to watch - for none more so than U.S. service members who invested their time, effort and energy into securing that country over the last 20 years.

“I’m disheartened. It’s sad. We buried a bunch of people who put their life on the line to do what our country asked us to do, and we did it,” Joseph Barnard said.

For some local veterans, like Kiettisak Bennett, who deployed twice to Afghanistan, the days after the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was announced were hard to deal with.

“For me and other veterans, they probably feel humiliated for the past couple of days or the past couple of weeks that they see on television or on the news that the Taliban is creating chaos for the life of the people that we tried to make it better for them,” Bennett said.

Several veterans who settled into Savannah after retiring served together in an air assault company out of Hunter Army Airfield in 2012. Jennifer Fortenberry was the Black Hawk pilot who commanded that unit.

“I’ve talked to veterans who were over there with me. It’s easy for people to feel that, maybe my service was in vain what we were doing over there. But I do want people to know that our service wasn’t in vain over there. I feel very strongly that we were there for 20 years and we kept America and the world safer from any other 9-11 attacks,” Fortenberry said.

Morgan King spent 22 months in Afghanistan over two tours and was in Fortenberry’s unit on his second deployment.

“I don’t feel like it minimizes the job I did and the people that I served with. we did a hell of a job, we saved thousands of lives ... I guess it’s hard to see and there are a lot of people drawing parallels with Vietnam,” King said.

That comparison could trouble Afghanistan veterans for years to come.

“The ones I worry about are the ones that had difficulty when they were over there and difficulties when they came back,” Barnard said.

“It makes me sad. Hopefully I can get through it. Hopefully I can get through it. And hopefully a lot of veterans that I fought with over there can get through it,” Bennett said.

“I think talking it our can help. I talked to a Vietnam veteran today and just said, hey I’m kind of understanding how you all probably felt. And maybe even talking to them who already went through it and have dealt with that,” Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry said Afghan veterans struggling with the recent developments can turn to a strong veteran community in and around Savannah with organizations such as Fight the War Within, Red Tape Warriors and Strike Force able to help. She also suggested they are contacting the local Veteran’s Authority for counseling.

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