A year ago today, 13 American service members were murdered by a suicide bomber at Kabul Airport during the final days of the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. No doubt the Biden administration has been struggling to handle the one-year anniversary appropriately.
The President released a statement that in no way marks today appropriately, and I’m not even related to any of the 13 who died, at least not by blood.
But, as a veteran of the forever war, and as I’m sure anyone who has donned the uniform can attest, we all become family over our shared service and sacrifices.
Biden issues a statement on the one year anniversary of the Kabul airport terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and over 100 Afghan civilians.
He says the U.S. has “redoubled our relentless global campaign against ISIS and other terrorists who threaten Americans.” pic.twitter.com/vG3Ra2yLUQ
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) August 26, 2022
While the administration would no doubt like this month to be over so they can dodge any discussion of what happened a year ago, people like me will never forget and intend to make sure no one does as long as we have the ability to speak.
So let’s take a look at this statement, and remember what happened.
Still Missing The Mark
President Biden is often touted for his ability to empathize during times of strife and emotional turmoil. He is particularly adept at empathy when it comes to loss; given his personal experience with it, you’d have thought he’d be able to exude the same over the 13.
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You would be incorrect. The statement begins with an acknowledgment of the loss of life, and he does list their names. The President goes on to rightly say:
“They were heroes, working to save lives as part of the largest airlift evacuation operation in our history. The example of their bravery and selflessness will live forever as a testament to the very best of our American character.”
Well said, and the world was better because they were in it. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the President to move on from the point of the anniversary to tout his successes in combating ISIS, something I am sure brings little consolation to the families of the fallen.
What was missing from the statement? An apology.
Today marks one year since 13 American heroes were killed at the Kabul airport.
We will never forget them, their bravery, and their sacrifice. pic.twitter.com/Q17EVUTXa6
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) August 26, 2022
Say Their Names
There’s been a fair amount of reporting regarding how the families of the fallen feel a year later. Mark Schmitz, the father of Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, had quite a bit to say, including:
“The government itself can’t even say their names.”
Almost as if discussing the withdrawal and what happened a year ago today isn’t allowed. Understandably the events surrounding the fatal bombing at Abbey Gate were not political high points for the administration.
But there is something to be said about admitting when you are wrong.
Paula Knauss, the mother of Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, said:
“The problem is there is still not a word of ‘sorry we messed up.’”
And there never will be. But there is no doubt that the way in which the withdrawal was handled was messed up.
Darin Hoover, the father of Marine Staff Sergeant Darin Hoover, said:
“We didn’t hear one single word from the administration – not a single word – and still [haven’t].”
Mr. Hoover goes on to say:
“Six months into it…the administration sent out letters to the families. … Everybody’s was exactly the same.”
So much for class and empathy.
One parent out of the group faces double the grief today. Sometimes grief is too much to bear.
🧵Today, marks one year since an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. service members outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/z2Pf9yUHHH
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) August 26, 2022
Two Sons Gone
Marine Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui has wanted to be a Marine since he was little. Who can blame him? Even as an Air Force veteran, I acknowledge that the Marines are pretty damn cool.
Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui lost his life a year ago today. His brother, Dakota, took his life earlier this month. Their mother, Shana, said Dakota would sometimes sleep next to his brother’s grave at night.
Who does Shana blame for the loss of her two sons? The withdrawal. She minces no words stating in an interview:
“The withdrawal was a complete failure. They wanted the disastrous pullout forgotten about and they wanted the 13 that were killed to be forgotten about, mainly because they were so young.”
Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the interview was her assertion:
“They were treated like they were disposable and replaceable…”
“I feel like [Biden] treated my son like he was disposable and replaceable.”
Shana Chappell, the mother of Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, speaks out on the one year anniversary of the bombing at Kabul Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members. https://t.co/Fa4fLdg5st pic.twitter.com/m3WsSWdVVO
— Newsmax (@newsmax) August 26, 2022
When my editor asked if I wanted to write about the anniversary of the 13, I hesitated. I cannot write about this subject without inserting my feelings, but perhaps that’s what is needed.
It is too easy for society to forget people like the 13. Men and women who have different backgrounds, different upbringings, and different reasons for joining the service who end up making the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s too easy to think of them as just more names on a wall somewhere or faces in memorials. But these are people like you and me. Ordinary people who end up doing the extraordinary, only to be forgotten.
I won’t forget them, and I know other brothers and sisters in arms like myself won’t either. Because we are family and their lives meant something.
I remember the pain I felt on this particular day a year ago. I was still in uniform, and the news hit me like a truck. I rarely show much emotion, but the pain was too real for me, and I betrayed my usual hard exterior with tears.
My daughter asked me why I was crying and why I was sad. I don’t keep anything from my daughter, so I explained to her that some young soldiers like me lost their lives doing their jobs, and it makes me sad because they didn’t have to.
She told me not to cry but to be happy that they did their jobs and are in heaven now. Simple five-year-old logic, but sound nonetheless.
FLASHBACK: Gold Star Father Darin Hoover, whose son Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover was killed in Kabul one year ago today, said that Biden looked down at his watch when all 13 fallen service members were brought off the airplane at Dover Air Force Base. pic.twitter.com/8bSmkAnuO2
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) August 26, 2022
We must never forget what happened a year ago. We must never forget that the President of the United States, well known for his empathy, was preoccupied with checking his watch at Dover Air Force Base when these men and women came home.
But more importantly, we must never forget their names.
Marine Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20
Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23
Marine Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31
Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22
Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20
Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20
Marine; Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20
Marine Cpl. Daegan Page, 23
Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25
Marine Cpl. Humberto “Bert” Sanchez, 22
Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Christian Knauss, 23
Navy Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 22
Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. You will not be forgotten.
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