I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you did the whole GWOT thing, the last few weeks have been pretty rough. Either you’ve been there, or you know someone who’s been there, or you’ve been somewhere similar, and you’re smart enough to know just how big a clusterfuck this whole thing is. We don’t all agree on the details of what could have been done better, of what should be done moving forward, or who’s to blame for all this, but regardless of which side you come out, chances are, you feel pretty shitty.
And you know what? That’s okay.
At this point, it would be weird if you didn’t feel some kind of way about Afghanistan. We don’t all have to fall in the same way on the specifics, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share the same hurt, the anger, and the frustration.
You don’t have to agree with me when I say our sorry excuse for a president is acting more like a spineless, gutless, feckless waste of oxygen who was conceived by half a nut from a limp dick wiped on a public toilet rather than the elder statesman he claims to be. When I say that the alleged military leadership who allowed this omnishambles of a catastrophe to happen would be better off choking to death on a bag of half-rotten camel dongs than be allowed to lead anything more important than a line to a firing squad, I don’t expect you to nod along in agreement to demonstrate how deeply you feel about the situation.
Empathy doesn’t require lockstep. Those of us who wore the uniform know you don’t have to agree with someone, or even particularly like them, to acknowledge a shared experience and a shared bond.
You know what’s not okay?
I’ve seen it a few times over the last few weeks, some snide asshole pretending to be above it all. “Oh, it’s not about you, stop trying to whore for attention.” Or something to that effect. There are a few variations on the theme, some involving politics, some using the tried and true method of whataboutism, and so on and so forth, but the general message is the same: “This isn’t about you,” with you, in this case, being just about everyone who has strong feelings on the matter.
To which I reply: “Why the hell not?” Followed closely by: “May your moist places be infested with all the stinging and biting insects that ever were or ever will be, you self-absorbed whiny backbirth, and may your arms be too short to scratch.”
Right about now, the veterans who served in the Middle East are the closest and dearest friends of the Afghan people. The Afghanistan veterans who knew them, the Iraq veterans who saw how our abandonment there led to the rise of ISIS and the deaths of countless innocents, the Syria vets who watched as our friends and allies were abandoned for the sake of politics, each and every one of them has a stake in this fight. And most of them are making good on it.
Right now, all over the country, tens of thousands of badasses are doing everything they can to make their voices heard. As a whole, veterans have never been good at being helpless. When shit happens and they don’t like it, they try to fix it. They write letters. They make videos. They raise money and try to work back channels to rescue as many AMCITS and allies as possible before time runs out. As we speak, they’re taking their rage and their grief and they’re channeling it in a hundred different ways to do what the craven cockgoblins in the White House and the Pentagon won’t.
So what if the desire to help is a little bit selfish? Charity for the sake of charity is a myth, like Santa Claus, or politicians who aren’t jizz-speckled turds floating in the shallow end of the gene pool. Hell, folks try harder when they have a personal stake anyway. Helping someone because it helps you cope because it makes you feel a little better about this epic fuckening, still has the same result. You’re still helping.
That’s more than that particular breed of backbiting drama trollops can say.
But hell, maybe you can’t help. Maybe you don’t know anyone, your local congresscritter sends your emails to the spam bin, and you’re in Facebook jail for the third time this month, so you can’t make posts to raise awareness. Maybe you’re so fucking depressed that the idea of doing anything more than crawling into a bottle and trying to find the bottom is exhausting.
Your feelings are still valid. You have every right to not be okay right now. If you can’t take care of anyone else, take care of yourself. If you need help, get help. Maybe that help looks like therapy, maybe it looks like some buddies at a bar to join you in drowning sorrows and venting spleens.
You’ve earned the right to be upset. You paid for it in your blood, your sweat, your tears, your health both mental and physical. Maybe you lost friends, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you got hurt, maybe you know someone who got hurt. Shit, maybe you spent the whole time inside the wire and despair for the months or years you wasted pushing papers or PMCSing trucks that got handed over to the goddamn Taliban. Anyone who tells you that you don’t have the right is more full of shit than a constipated bull drowning in an open sewer.
Things are hard right now, folks, and they’re not showing any signs of letting up. Don’t let anyone else make them harder by shoveling guilt on top of everything else for the sake of appearing high and mighty. Take care of yourselves, kings and queens. Do what you gotta, and fuck the haters with a rusty pitchfork.
Kevin is a thirteen-year veteran of the North Carolina Army National Guard, with deployments to Egypt and Syria. He was going to be a lifer like you, but then he took a staircase to the knee.