Those who are old enough to have witnessed the tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001, remember exactly where they were when they heard of the attacks.
I was driving to a meeting in Gurdon, listening to the radio when I heard the news. When I arrived at my meeting, attended by folks from all over the country, including New York City, we simply watched the TV in disbelief and horror as the events unfolded. Soon after, everyone kept their rental cars in order to drive across the country to get home to their families.
History will regard 9/11 as one of our nation's darkest days. Today, on the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, one cannot help but think of the consequences of that attack as the world watches the horrific scenes coming from Afghanistan as the Taliban re- establish their dominance.
Thankfully, this August, I was able to spend a lot of time in the Fourth District listening to constituents' concerns and answering questions, most of which seem to focus on the situation in Afghanistan. I have heard over and over from veterans who are furious with the handling of our withdrawal from the fragile country. Many veterans, active-duty servicemen, and Gold Star families understandably feel like their sacrifices meant nothing as they watch the Taliban tear apart 20 years of progress.
What happened in Afghanistan in the past few weeks is nothing short of a tragedy, and those who made the poor decisions that led to this catastrophe and the deaths of 13 of our troops will be held accountable.
While it is easy to feel like the years of sacrifice were wasted, I can assure you that is not the case. Because of our military, a whole generation of little girls was able to go to school. Because of our presence, women were able to hold jobs, play sports, and simply go outside without a man's permission, regaining their identities as human beings. Millions of people knew peace for the first time, absent the evil that once ruled the nation with an iron fist.
Because of our military, an unknown number of American lives were saved from additional terrorist attacks. We will never know how many lives were saved by the U.S.' presence in Afghanistan, but we can be sure that there are countless people around the world who will thankfully never know the pain of losing a loved one to terrorism because of the sacrifice of our troops and their families.
I assure you, our work in Afghanistan was not in vain. On this anniversary of 9/11, many Americans cannot truly understand the deep frustration and heartache felt by those who have served in Afghanistan or lost someone in the service, but I know I speak for the nation when I say we are behind you. This nation will always remember the dedication and sacrifice of our service members.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman represents Arkansas' 4th District.