Running towards chaos
Why military veterans are the missing link needed to support the Ukrainian people
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Last September, the world watched in horror as our two-decade war in Afghanistan came to a catastrophic end. As the Taliban conducted a lighting campaign to take control of the country, the defending Afghan forces were abandoned by their own head of government, as well as their long-time U.S. and NATO allies. What unfolded was a disastrous evacuation effort that left thousands of Afghan friends and allies at the hands of the very enemy we swore to protect them against when they put their families at risk to help us.
In the face of this spectacular failure of official government intervention to evacuate our friends and allies, large NGOs and organizations also failed to bridge the gap, leaving thousands to fall between the cracks.
This is where our veterans stepped in. They had the networks to find safe paths and safe haven for friends who were trapped. They had the skills and expertise to understand the threat and how to deal with the Taliban. They had the committment to the cause, aspirational values, and perseverance in the face of difficulties to get their friends out no matter what the cost.
- These U.S. Veterans Won’t Rest Until They’ve Kept a Wartime Promise – New York Times
- U.S. veterans mobilize to rescue Afghan interpreters from the Taliban – NBC News
- US special operations vets carry out daring mission to save Afghan allies – ABC News
- The Veterans Struggling to Save Afghan Allies – For many who served in Afghanistan, the flawed evacuation efforts have brought feelings of shame and betrayal. – New Yorker
- An army of veterans and volunteers organizes online to evacuate Afghans, from thousands of miles away – Washington Post
Now, they are expanding to help in Ukraine. Although we haven’t conducted a war there, our veterans are linked in many ways: Ukrainians trained with the California National Guard. A base used by the U.S. and NATO to train Ukrainians was bombed by Russia. Our veterans fought for decades for each other, their friends, and for the protection of democracy, and were horrified when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Their committment and values refuse to let them sit idly by as another democracy falls to an autocratic aggressor.
Our veterans will have an immediate impact on the situation in Ukraine:
- They know how to operate in uncertain, dangerous, and chaotic environments. In one example, a fuel shortage in-country was hampering rescue efforts. Veterans found a way to get a group of electric vehicles together and access remote areas to rescue an isolated 57-year-old woman, and hundreds more.
- They have specialized skillsets that are crucial for surviving wartime environments. Key amongst these – survival skills. Our veterans are helping refugess survive by teaching them how to properly use armor, how to travel safely in the face of IEDs and artillery, and how to survive the harsh winter conditions, saving thousands.
- They have the committment to shore up the will of the Ukrainian people. War and resistance are about the will to continue to fight more than anything. Feeling abandoned by NATO and the West, the committment of groups of veterans to their cause helps them to believe and know that they aren’t alone.
Donating to credible charities and causes is crucial. Advocating to your government officials for more involved intervention is needed. But just like in Afghanistan, thousands of people in dire need fall between the cracks of these organizations, and only the skills, committment, expertise, and values of our veterans can help bridge the gap and save thousands of lives.
Thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect those of J.P. Morgan Chase, American Jewish University, the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, or any other organization.