Earlier this week, a number of Tillman Scholars reflected on the events unfolding in Afghanistan now. Many scholars and their friends and family worked to create a better future in Afghanistan, as part of their military service or beyond; many made exceptional sacrifices and many more had friends and family they loved who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of a safe and peaceful Afghanistan.
Our scholars carry on Pat Tillman’s legacy of service beyond self and leadership through action, committing to strengthening communities at home and around the world; our organization exists to identify remarkable veterans and military spouses, empower them to lead, and amplify their impact. In that spirit, we asked a few more to offer their perspectives on the situation in Afghanistan, how we can care for one another and offer support to Afghans and others most affected by the crisis.
2014 Tillman Scholar
“I served in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010-2011 as a route clearance platoon leader in the provinces of Ghazni, Wardak, and Paktika. Then, I cofounded Rumi Spice along with several other military veterans; we are an Afghan saffron company based out of Herat. I also have Afghan friends who were teammates in the Sandhurst competition when we were cadets at our respective military academies.
I’m really proud and inspired that ordinary citizens—active and former military, state and congressional staffers, lawyers, pilots—are stepping up to fill the gap and coordinating efforts to add Afghan families to evacuation priority lists, lobby Congress for more support for Afghans, and coordinate on-the-ground security efforts.
The Afghan people are strong in the face of adversity, and have proven themselves time and time again, despite the international narrative. Although the situation is chaotic, Afghan security forces and businesses are taking steps to establish a new normal under a new Taliban government, and they will survive and thrive. There are complex relationships and politics that many of us can only begin to understand.”
2010 Tillman Scholar
“My combat service was in Iraq. I was able to help get my interpreter out of Tikrit after they bombed his house. Afghanistan is like any other place: filled with people who want to live, want to thrive, want to see their children grow up.
Seeing my fellow scholars struggling to make sense of the situation weighed heavily on me, so I felt the need to take action. Along with other Tillman Scholars, I developed a workspace where we could coordinate with other people interested in helping rescue efforts. Currently we are tied into several government and non-governmental organizations. We’re trying to help coordinate evacuations, create and execute media campaigns and political action, and develop campaigns for supplies and funds once our partners get to the U.S.
Right now, push for others to be involved in the effort. Contact your representatives and push them to commit to leaving no one behind. This concept is core to the ethos of American military service. Afghans may be very different from us culturally, but they put themselves on the line for us. It is our moral responsibility to do whatever we can to protect them.”
2012 Tillman Scholar
“My entire adult life has been shaped by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve seen the impact of the war on my friends—both physically and mentally. I’ve watched family members mourn the death of fellow service members who have been killed in Afghanistan. I cheered the day Osama Bin Laden was killed. While I didn’t serve there, I think many of us have a connection to Afghanistan and its people.
Adrian (Kinsella, a fellow Tillman Scholar and my husband) and I learned through the International Rescue Committee that many of the Afghan families who were evacuated to Fort Lee were going to be relocated to Sacramento. The first family landed on August 7. We decided to make a few welcome signs and meet them at the airport. We wanted them to know that we appreciated their service and that they were welcomed with open arms.
They had nothing….I shared a photo of our daughter holding up a welcome sign in Pashto and the experience on social media. People from across the country (and Canada) reached out to see how they could help. I created an Amazon Wish List and within a few hours everything had been purchased. People bought the girls bunkbeds, bedding, clothing, toys, essential household items, gift cards—I was floored. Now we’re working to see how we can help other families.
Every family who has served alongside U.S. forces deserves a hero’s welcome. They land in this country with a few suitcases, and it just takes a few folks who give a damn to help get them on their feet. That’s what we’re trying to do.
IRC has offices across the country and they’re working to resettle families. They need volunteers and they’re raising funds to directly support resettling Afghan families. Also, find a local org who is helping the Afghan families. There’s a need for housing and ensuring these families have the essential items when they land. Just show up and ask how you can help—that’s what the Tillman community does the best.”
More Perspectives from Tillman Scholars
In addition to the scholars who shared their reflections with us, a number of scholars have given interviews or written essays in the media — below, please find articles, op-eds, TV appearances and more to help make sense of the crisis featuring our scholars.
• In USA Today, 2015 Tillman Scholar Jackie Munn wrote an essay on her experience as a cultural support team leader in Afghanistan—and her fears for the future of the girls and women she assisted near the Pakistan border.