What did he die for?
Was the worth price it?
What’s any totally different?
These are the questions Gene Griffin requested himself as he watched the Taliban retake Afghanistan, toppling Kabul and declaring themselves de facto rulers of the nation.
They’re the identical questions he requested 12 years in the past. The identical emotions of uncertainty that weighed on his thoughts when his son, Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, was killed in an improvised explosive gadget assault in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley on Oct. 27, 2009.
On the time, reassurance from a high-ranking navy commander and good friend that Dale fought an essential, crucial and important battle “helped me not go as deep,” Gene stated. And, years later, others within the navy group are reaching out to examine in on the Griffins.
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“They knew we’d be hurting,” Gene stated, clutching the hand of his spouse, Dona, when he spoke with IndyStar on Aug. 20. “They knew we’d be questioning what our son gave his life for. It’s a tricky query.”
The Griffins should not alone.
Veterans and their households throughout the nation have grappled with a spread of feelings as they’ve watched the occasions in Afghanistan unfold. Some are upset with these making selections. Others are annoyed with the Afghan navy’s response to the Taliban’s resurgence. And nonetheless others are left to mirror on their service and sacrifice.
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These emotions are compounded by photographs of hundreds of individuals desperately making an attempt to flee Afghanistan as the US and NATO troops withdrew from the nation. A bombing at Kabul’s airport on Aug. 26 killed scores of individuals, together with 13 U.S. service members. One of them was a Hoosier. The final U.S. troops flew out of Kabul six days later, successfully ending America’s 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.
The approaching twentieth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, which prompted the U.S.’s involvement within the conflict, hasn’t made issues simpler.
However the Griffins now not query their son’s sacrifice. As an alternative, they give attention to the constructive impression Dale had on these round him and the Afghans for whom they are saying he cared.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” Gene stated of the present state of affairs in Afghanistan. “I simply don’t doubt Dale’s sacrifice. I’m hurting for the individuals there.”
‘I believe I could make a distinction’
It was in 2005 when Dale got here to his dad and mom with the information he wished to enlist.
A champion highschool wrestler, the then-25-year-old attended Virginia Navy Institute on a full scholarship earlier than transferring to a college in Illinois. He took a job in Indianapolis as he deliberate to complete his enterprise diploma.
“Then he got here to us in the future and stated ‘I gotta go,'” Gene recalled. “It was a easy assertion. He stated: ‘I believe I could make a distinction.'”
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Although Dale wasn’t all the time inquisitive about teachers, he took a eager curiosity in his new duties, in line with his mom, Dona. He studied Arabic for 10 months when his battalion thought they have been deploying to Iraq, and he started studying Pashto when that task was modified to Afghanistan.
He deployed to the Arghandab Valley with the first Battalion, seventeenth Infantry Regiment, fifth Stryker Brigade Fight Crew, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Washington, in 2009.
“He was enchanted with the nation and the individuals,” Dona stated of her son’s time in Afghanistan. When Dale would write residence, he would ask her to ship sweet, crayons and coloring books for the Afghan kids.
It is that connection Dale had with the Afghan folks that pains the Griffins as they see pictures and movies of Afghans swarming Kabul’s airport in a last-ditch effort to flee Taliban rule.
Final week, Dona wakened nauseous. “Greater than something,” she stated, “it was melancholy over what I used to be seeing was happening — the place these households which have sacrificed a lot to help us are simply being left, and correct steps should not being taken.”
Dale was pals with an Afghan interpreter, Dona famous. The Griffins later realized the interpreter was killed in the identical IED explosion — he ran to meet up with Dale so they may experience in the identical Stryker car that evening. Six different troopers have been additionally killed within the assault.
“(I really feel for) those who’ve paid the worth for his or her nation and for our nation — for the liberty that our nation represents,” Dona stated, her husband. “And (after) all these years, now we’re simply going to pack up?”
Gene echoed these sentiments however famous he isn’t saying the U.S. ought to have stayed in Afghanistan. If the U.S. was going to go away, he stated, they need to depart with the proper plans and “with out notifying the world what’s happening.”
“Now, the folks that our son actually liked … now all these persons are left in hurt’s approach,” he stated.
‘They’re in it for one another’
“To the lads of the Arghandab River Valley ’09-’10,” the letter begins, “We’re most likely all upset to see that the Taliban is regaining management of Afghanistan. Kandahar Metropolis is among the most up-to-date locations to fall.”
“I learn one account that some (Operation Enduring Freedom) veterans have been saying their buddies who have been killed had died for no cause. Nobody can let you know the right way to really feel about that, however I for one disagree with anybody who would say the 22 males we misplaced had died in useless.”
“For my part, every of them gave their lives for you, their brothers, who have been on their left and their proper when issues have been unhealthy…”
Col. Jonathan Neumann, the commanding officer of Dale’s battalion in Afghanistan, instructed IndyStar he despatched that word to his former troopers and their households in mid-August as a result of he knew it was “terribly disappointing to see and to assume that loads of arduous work” was getting washed away.
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The anniversaries of the deaths of some within the battalion have been additionally approaching, he stated. The primary two males have been killed Aug. 18, and his males annually put up photos and remembrances of these they misplaced.
“I might hate for somebody to assume is that these guys died in useless, that they died for nothing,” Neumann stated. “I don’t consider that in any respect.”
In contrast to a lot of Afghanistan, the Arghandab Valley is a thick, vegetated space of pomegranate orchards, melons and different crops. The Taliban had planted “loads of very massive explosives” within the space earlier than Neumann’s males arrived, he stated, and used the valley as a passageway to launch assaults into Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest metropolis.
That made the world “deadly,” Neumann stated, and the lads have been usually in fight.
“We have been there for one another, not a lot for any big-picture mission,” Neumann stated of his troopers and their sacrifice. “When it will get all the way down to it, younger troopers — they’re within the motion and so they’re in it for one another on the left and proper.”
He famous his troops put a “enormous damper in Taliban operations” throughout their time within the valley and stated they “did depart the place a lot better than we inherited.”
Dale, Neumann stated, was a hero and a “large athlete.” He recalled a time earlier than deployment at Fort Lewis in Washington state during which Dale gained the heavyweight championship in a military combatives combined martial arts-type competitors.
And he gained it handily.
“Watching him do this was fairly spectacular,” the colonel recalled. “That’s form of once you received to know, OK, this man’s a bit totally different than loads of troopers that we had.”
‘We really feel Dale on the park’
For Gene and Dona Griffin, Col. Neumann’s word was one of many few issues which have comforted them over the previous few weeks.
However the Griffin’s stated their religion in God and their bike park in Terre Haute are the 2 fundamental anchors that assist them address the lack of their youngest son and the ache current occasions deliver them.
Griffin Bike Park was based in 2016 and options greater than 20 miles of off-road trails. It was began as a method to bear in mind Dale — who liked mountain biking along with his household — and greater than 200 Hoosier troopers who misplaced their lives because the conflict on terror started 20 years in the past.
One path, the Warrior Path, which has on both aspect of it the pictures and names of scores of fallen Hoosier service members, has drawn veterans and their households from all around the world. The path results in a bronze memorial for Dale.
“One factor we have seen is we really feel Dale on the park,” Dona stated, smiling. “We really feel him within the wind.”
At a ceremony in late August on the Indiana State Truthful honoring the state’s fallen troopers, Gene spoke of his son, sacrifice and the bike park.
He instructed the group that an individual solely dies twice: As soon as when he leaves this Earth and a second time when his identify is rarely talked about once more.
“That is by no means going to occur,” he stated.