Afghanistan veterans are full of questions

Afghanistan war
Picture credit: Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Afghanistan veterans are full of questions now that the Taliban have taken over the country. Why were the interpreters not immediately brought to the Netherlands? Why weren’t the Taliban overpowered? Was it all for nothing? These are questions that are difficult to answer, but they are being discussed at the Veterans Meeting Centre in Den Bosch.

Veterans meeting center

And talking is very important, says chairman and veteran Jeroen Stam (52). That is why there was an extra meeting on Sunday. All the concerns regarding Afghanistan and its take over are discussed openly in a safe environment.

Miseries faced by the army in Afghanistan 

Jeroen sits with six other veterans under a party tent on Sunday afternoon for the meeting. Jeroen spent four months in Kabul and Kandahar in 2011. As a logistician, he spent four months in misery.

“I got a Kalashnikov in my back. Also, I saw someone blow themselves up in front of our gate. We were under fire,” the veteran begins his misery list. Jeroen also added that when his father died during the mission and he could not go home. “The Afghans at the airport wouldn’t let me go,” he says.

Post-traumatic disorder 

Once home, Jeroen had to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The stress manifests itself in many ways, he explains candidly. “If someone of a different ethnicity walks past my house, I immediately think: why is he walking here, does he know I was in Afghanistan? But I don’t trust an open skylight either.”

According to Jeroen, a sniper could be sitting there. And he certainly doesn’t trust a drain cover. “I will never drive over that again. There could be a bomb under there.”

All this makes him feel unsafe in his own environment. That is why the meetings for veterans are important. “Here we can relax, where we feel safe,” he says.

“Was all this for nothing?”

Afghanistan veterans feel the need to talk. “You can’t turn on the TV without seeing news regarding Afghanistan. Our heads are full,” Jeroen says. “We made the Afghans get used to freedom and security. 25 Dutch soldiers were killed there. Was all this for nothing?”

The current issue causes worry for Jeroen and other veterans. “No, during that time, it was not for nothing. There was a result, but what happens now?” The question is whether those few years of freedom were worth 25 Dutch lives. Jeroen compares the mission in Afghanistan with the Second World War. “The Americans and Canadians came to liberate us. It cost a lot of lives, but they succeeded. During that time, our mission was suspended due to politics. Now all our efforts seem to have failed. The Taliban is still not eradicated.”

“If they call tomorrow, I’ll be ready.”

Those who now think that all that is discussed at the veterans’ meeting is doom and gloom are wrong. “Everything is discussed here. We are not a mental health institution where you only have half an hour. With us, you are a person with a story. You are always welcome here.” The past few days, aid workers have been present to offer extra support to the veterans, says Jeroen.

Afghanistan is in Jeroen’s heart, by the way. Despite his PTSD, he would love to go back. “If they call tomorrow, I’ll be ready.”


Translated by: Anitha Sevugan

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