Chesney Guest Column: 20-year Commitment to Afghan People Ends with Heavy Hearts

The 20-year commitment by the US Government to the people of Afghanistan ended this past week, although not in a way that anyone would have hoped to see our assistance end.

As the last transport left Kabul, I joined with fellow Americans in breathing a sigh of relief, strained and troubled by the allies and assets we left behind. It has been both heartbreaking and heartwarming to be reminded of our role as the leader of the Free World as well as the shortcomings in fulfillment of compassion and empathy for those who helped along the way.

Joining my fellow Americans, I have done a lot of praying over the past weeks. I have prayed for our soldiers in harm’s way around the world. I have prayed for their well-being, both physical as well as emotional and mental, as we have watched images of Afghan moms and dads handing over their babies to American troops in hopes that their infant children could be saved, even if there was insufficient room in our hearts and our transports for many of them as parents.

I have prayed for the religious missionaries, aid workers, and the men, women, and children still in harm’s way. Many will pay a terrible price for their stand for a better life for their children. They deserve our prayers. I’ve prayed for those who helped the cause of freedom and hoped for democracy only to see that that cry must carry forward in their hearts only, for now, in hopes the next generation take up the struggle. I have prayed for those persecuted because of religion, gender or persuasion. The coming years will be harder than we can possibly imagine for them.

Like many Americans, I have felt hopeless about the situation and have resigned myself to send up my heavy heart in prayer to God and ask for Him to bring healing to His people. We need God’s grace more than ever, as our hearts ache for the images we bear witness.

Twenty years ago, when this war started, I was early in my college days and not far out of my days at Eastland High School. I watched classmates and friends sign up for military service and go off to war following that cheap sucker punch that came America’s way twenty years ago next week. I know many who enlisted never made it home. Their blood may have spilled on soil over 7,000 miles away from here, but the sacrifice has forever imprinted our hearts. They will live on in our memories and their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

We are grateful, still. Not for the way it started, nor for the way it ended. We are grateful for what this has reminded us about ourselves. For the past decade, the public debate in this country has been simply about ending this war. Lost in the public discourse has been the people of Afghanistan. Through 20 years of turmoil, lives were lived. Many of those lives would have been markedly worse if not for the efforts of the United States of America.

While too many of the images we see on our televisions these days remind weary eyes of the images seen following the Vietnam War, let us dedicate ourselves to ensuring the heroes who helped evacuate as many allies, as many of the women, children, and Afghan refugees as they possibly could, receive a Heroes’ welcome home.

While a trail of blood was left on the way out, it was the blood of Americans and Afghans who wanted nothing more than a better life for the people of Afghanistan. It was shed tragically and with a humanity which has refocused Americans to remember the people we went there to protect. Please join me in continuing to pray for those who will get that chance to start a new life out of Afghanistan as well as those still striving for a new day within. God, please protect Your people and grant us Your peace.