Afghanistan has been weighing heavily this week on the minds of Chris Tietz and other veterans in the area who served in that troubled country.
Tietz, of Port Dover, was attached to a Canadian artillery unit in Panjway district in 2006 and 2007.
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Tietz said reports of the chaotic allied troop withdrawal from Afghanistan have left him feeling “sickened” and “disgusted.” He said he can’t stop thinking of comrades who were killed, wounded or otherwise traumatized and the possibility that the war was “all for nothing.”
“My heart goes out to the parents of the fallen,” Tietz said. “How do you explain to them that it was for nothing? How do you answer that question?”
One of those parents would be Judy Klages, formerly of Simcoe and now of Woodstock. Klages has served as the Silver Cross Mother during Remembrance Day observances at the Norfolk War Memorial in Simcoe in recent years.
That distinction fell to Klages 11 years ago when her son, Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Blake was raised in Simcoe and graduated from Simcoe Composite School, which is located next to the War Memorial that bears a plaque in his honour. Ironically, Blake was sent to Afghanistan as part of a bomb-disposal unit.
Klages said it’s been a hard week. She has been cycling through a range of emotions, including “anger, betrayal and sadness.”
“Yes, very emotional,” she said. “It’s devastating to think that Canada and its soldiers were there and then everyone just decided to walk away.
“I don’t watch the news. That’s how I deal with it. But the soldiers who served – they must be so angry. Canada doesn’t seem to be doing a lot for the people who helped us.”
Klages said she clings to the hope that the Afghan people will fight for their basic human rights now that they’ve had 20 years of intensive aid from the west.
Once allied troops evicted their Taliban oppressors in 2001, western nations poured billions into Afghanistan to build schools and other basic infrastructure. During this time, the lot of the citizenry – women and girls in particular – greatly improved.
Rev. Bryan Robertson, president of the Royal Canadian Legion in Simcoe and emcee for Remembrance Day observances at the War Memorial, said he sympathizes will local veterans and their families who were scarred by their experience in Afghanistan.
“Canada had 158 casualties there,” Robertson said. “And now it appears to have been a wasted effort.
“I think the United States could’ve maintained more troops there to stabilize the situation. Maybe it was inevitable that the Taliban was going to take over again, but it looks like the U.S. just abandoned the effort. This appears to be a pattern with them. As a former soldier, you never announce the date of your withdrawal.”
Klages and Robertson said they are hoping for the best.
However, as a veteran with two years on the ground in Afghanistan, Tietz warned everyone to prepare for the worst. The Taliban is a vile force, he said, and now that they’ve seized an arsenal fit for a 300,000-strong First World army, he expects them to use it.
“Every soldier who has been over there knows this is going to turn out bad,” he said.
“I have no words. It’s sickening what’s happening over there, and we are in for a world of hurt.”