By Gary Michiel Montiel
Anyone who is old enough to remember the events of 9/11 and the vivid imagery and raw emotion that day instilled in our country understands the reason we invaded Afghanistan. We were attacked on our own soil and we were compelled to defend ourselves.
I was in Army basic training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma when the reports started coming in at around 9 a.m. and the entire base was placed on lockdown. My entire platoon of around 60 people crammed into a tiny room and watched the television mortified at what was going on, as we were helpless to do anything. I was especially distraught because my sister was living in New York attending art school and worked right down the street from the Twin Towers. For hours, we sat glued to that tiny television saying few words to each other in total disbelief and fear; then finally around 6 p.m., my drill sergeant called me into his office. I was already bracing myself for the terrible news, but all I remember him saying is the words, “Your sister is safe.” It was the first time in my life I wept uncontrollable tears of relief, and let me tell you I wept! When I left the office I was embraced by my brothers in arms and felt the love and support every soldier calls camaraderie and fraternity. Many people have their own stories to tell about that fateful day, but that is mine.
Twenty years later we were still fighting a war in Afghanistan, not to root out those responsible for the attacks of 9/11 but to help create a nation which we hoped would be founded on the principles of freedom and democracy. Not an easy task in a region with such a tumultuous historical, ideological, and religious background; and only now can we see it was an impossible one. Britain and Russia both tried the invasion method to sway Afghanistan into becoming something it fundamentally is not, each met with similar failures and withdrew.
To my brothers and sisters who served in Afghanistan, some of whom left pieces of themselves on those far flung battlefields and others who left actual parts of themselves, I say to you: you are the reason the people of that war-torn country enjoyed two decades of relative peace and prosperity. You were the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and women, and Sailors who stood between religious zealots who sought to overtake and subjugate the good people of that nation. Your strength, courage, and tenacity in the face of suicide bombers, coordinated ambushes, and loss of brothers and sisters whom you loved are to be respected and applauded. Although I am sure these words do little to quell the righteous indignation you must feel at this point, please know that the honor you have bestowed upon your communities, your family, and country can never be taken from you. May God bless you all and God bless America.
If you or any veterans you know are interested in continuing their service, please look into joining your local VFW by contacting Gabe Munoz at 520-827-0597; or your local American Legion by contacting Mike Montiel at 480-272-3786. In San Manuel, Oracle and Mammoth, VFW Post 2767 will be having a meeting at the San Manuel Elks on the first Thursday of each month, starting at 6 p.m. You are most welcome to join them.