Afghanistan from the Daughter of a Veteran


Scarlett Campbell, Assistant Editor

I grew up as a military brat until the age of nine. My father served in the U.S. Air Force for 15 years. He joined straight out of high school right before a defining point in American history, 9/11. Over the course of his 15 years, my dad traveled to over 15 countries, has done several deployments in so many amazing places, and has a story to tell about every single one of them. He describes his time in the military as, “some of the best years of his life.” They were some of the best years of my life too.

Our family was stationed on one of the biggest military bases in the country: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in Burlington County, New Jersey. It was so massive that during our time there we never saw all of it. My childhood consisted of Easter egg hunts and visiting Santa in a gutted C-17 aircraft, yearly airshows with rooftop access where we were almost face to face with pilots that waved at us every time they passed by. He traveled a lot, so goodbyes were frequent. But thankfully, Skype existed, and my brother and I always got the best souvenirs, so it wasn’t that bad. If I could go back and relive it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. 

My father did several tours in Afghanistan, five to be exact, and although he joined the military to help people and save lives, those tours have left deep scars on his mental health, something he’s struggled with for years – specifically severe PTSD. But after retiring, it only began to ravage his mind even more. Nightmares, anxiety, depression, anger, and addiction. Throughout my early childhood, I’ve had a front row seat to the demise of my father. I watched a person that I love so dearly, a person I once idolized, turn into someone completely unrecognizable. If I could, I would make it all go away. I would shield my dad from it all. I would convince him to get help sooner, instead of feeling the shame that many veterans feel by seeking help. But I can’t.

One of the 13 American troops killed in Afghanistan during the Kabul Airport Attack – Nicole Gee – grew up in my hometown of Roseville, California. She graduated from the high school that my uncle teaches at. In fact, she was one of his students, and she was one of the students he knew well. The day he found out he called me, choked up and emotional. In my uncle’s classroom, he has hundreds of photos of his students lining his walls. This last summer, while visiting, I went with my uncle to his classroom. I admired her picture without even knowing who she was. She walked the halls I used to dance in as a child, sat in the classroom I’ve studied every inch of. Now, the whole country knows her name. The news of her untimely passing hits home, not only because she was a student of my uncle’s, but because that so easily could have been my dad. His last tour was in 2011, he spent 10 years there off and on trying to keep peace. And now, it seems as if it’s all for not. 

In speaking with other veterans, a lot of which are friends of ours, our government’s handling of the situation is just as traumatizing as their time there. It’s a slap in the face for all that they’ve worked for. It’s all coming back to haunt them. For the older veterans within my family, it’s Vietnam all over again. These men and women saw and did things no human should ever have to. All in the name of freedom for those who are oppressed, only to hand it back to their oppressors. 

The second I saw what was happening in Afghanistan being broadcast on the news, my heart broke into 38 million pieces. My heart breaks for the Afghani people and the hundreds of Americans still stranded. My heart bleeds for veterans who are now struggling to understand what’s happening, the why’s and what if’s, why all that they’ve fought for is now torn to shreds, a healing wound being ripped back open. I feel for the families of veterans, my father included. The Kabul Airport Attack happened on his 40th birthday, what a memory to have. I feel for the veterans’ families who are still trying to fight the PTSD, relationships broken, and families torn apart because of it, including my own. I by no means consider myself a Republican, nor a Democrat, but all I can say is that I hope our current, and past administrations can sleep at night with the atrocities, pain, and suffering that they’ve caused to not only the families of those 13 Service Members killed on August 26, 2021 but to every veteran that has ever served in the greatest military in the world. All gave some, some gave all.