Regardless of the politics of a war, the American people recognize the sacrifice and heroism of the troops who offer life and limb when country calls. We support the troops even when we don’t support the war, but President Joe Biden wants to bring troops home without any celebration or recognition, just silence. And it is a disgrace.
We have seen this once before, when our warriors returned home from Vietnam. A nation roiled by strife and political differences ignored the sacrifice of those who served, many of whom were involuntarily drafted. Some expressed hostility, spitting on our veterans as part of their political opposition to the war. It remains a stain on this country, and a scar on the veterans who fought in Vietnam.
President Donald Trump’s decision to bring the troops home effective May 1 was the right decision. It is disappointing that Biden has delayed the withdrawal, risking many more American lives for the symbolism of a complete withdrawal on the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. America’s longest war needs to end now.
But most concerning is the Biden administration’s stance on the nation’s gratitude, or lack thereof, for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who fought in Afghanistan during this 20-year war.
The president’s press secretary declared, “We’re not having a moment of celebration” concerning the official ending of America’s engagement. She went on to say, “It’s a 20-year war that has not been won militarily.”
It appears the Biden administration would like this war to go away in the dead of night, with little recognition of the troops who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are repeating the mistake of Vietnam.
One might not be surprised by this major miscalculation, for this is the former vice president who urged President Obama to not take out Bin Laden. He has been wrong on almost every major foreign policy decision since he was elected in 1972. But his mistakes are magnified now because he is our Commander-in-Chief.
As to the claim that there were no military victories, that comment strikes me as a shift of blame from the politicians to the troops. The fact remains that American warfighters sacked the Taliban in a matter of weeks. That was a military victory. If Afghanistan can best be described as a stalemate, that is a reflection of political failures, not failures of our men and women in uniform.
But political miscalculations aside, we ought to be unified in celebrating the heroism of our troops who served in Afghanistan. There ought to be parades and ceremonies in every state celebrating their courage. And if Trump was still in office, you better believe there would be.
I am reminded of an emotional experience when I returned with my fellow Marines following my second tour of duty in Anbar Province, Iraq.
On our flight home, the pilot announced that we were going to land in Bangor, Maine, before heading to the base in North Carolina. When we landed, the command told us we could get out and stretch our legs for an hour or two. As we walked into the chute at this small airport in Maine, we started hearing clapping but didn’t know what it was. As we got closer, we saw a group of Vietnam veterans with their kids and grandkids. As we approached them they said to us “Marines, we are here to welcome you home because no one was there to welcome us.”
At that moment, I watched as tears filled the eyes of the Vietnam vets as well as me and my fellow Marines. They hugged us and talked to us and just made us feel appreciated. They didn’t want us to experience what they did a generation earlier due to a divided country. I will never forget that moment and I will always pay it forward.
What happened to our veterans following the withdrawal from Vietnam remains a stain on this country. President Biden seems to be determined to repeat this mistake. But veterans of our 21st Century wars will not be silent in the face of state-sanctioned ingratitude. We will be welcoming our troops home. We will be celebrating them. They did their duty, often at great cost, even as the politicians failed them. They deserve our gratitude.
Josh Mandel is a USMC veteran, former Treasurer of Ohio and US Senate candidate.