Retired Marine speaks on war in Afghanistan

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For the past 20 years, American troops have been stationed in Afghanistan.

In February of 2020, President Trump signed an agreement to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. These efforts have continued under President Biden. The withdrawal of troops has been a controversial subject for years with the topic heating up as Trump’s agreement comes to fruition. Mr. Derek Fischer, teacher and retired marine, gave his perspective on the events unfolding.

“I was a corporal in the Marines, and my official title was CBRN defense specialist. That basically meant I was in charge of training Marines in case there was a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack. I was in charge of helping them know how to react, respond, and defend themselves if something like that happened,” Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Fischer was stationed in Afghanistan.

“I was in the Marines from 2009 to 2013. While I was in, I was stationed with first battalion third Marines in Hawaii. My battalion deployed to Afghanistan a few days before Easter 2011,” Mr. Fischer said.

When the decision to withdraw from the war was announced, it immediately sparked a debate on whether withdrawal would be beneficial or bring more harm to those in Afghanistan.

“I certainly wish it would’ve been handled better. I don’t know that I know a better way to do it. I think everyone in the military knew it was going to be messy getting out of Afghanistan. I just certainly didn’t expect it to unfold the way it did,” Mr. Fischer said.

It is easy to come to conclusions about U.S. involvement without understanding the bigger picture. Mr. Fischer explained how his experience in Afghanistan has affected his understanding of the war.

“I certainly have a different perspective than anybody who wasn’t there just because you kind of see a lot in the news a lot of conflicting things, a lot of confusing things, and you hear a lot of things that really don’t really happen that much, or if they do happen, they’re pretty rare events. It kind of gives you a more realistic perspective of why we’re there vs the reasons why a lot of people feel we’re there,” Mr. Fischer said.

The reasons behind U.S. involvement are one more aspect of the war that have been debated since the beginning. Finding a good, unbiased source of information has proven to be difficult. This led to misconceptions about what the troops were actually doing in Afghanistan.

“I think a lot of people think that the majority of the reason why we have been there is simply to fight terrorism, and that’s certainly a big part of it, but a lot of what we were doing was also humanitarian stuff. One of the big things we did while we were there was helping build a girl’s school, helping build a women’s hospital, and building an agriculture college as well as helping them build their military, their police force, and their government. Until a few years before I got there, they had none of those things. They just had nothing, no structure whatsoever,” Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Fischer spoke about the humanity of the Afghan people, and how they are perceived by citizens in the states.

“I think one of the biggest things, also a big misconception, is just how people think of the Afghan people. They were some of the kindest, most understanding people I had ever met in my life. I think a lot of people come in with these preconceptions and misunderstandings of their culture. When you actually meet somebody from there, they’re just people trying to live their lives. That was one of the biggest things we tried to do while there, just make living their life a lot easier,” Mr, Fischer said.

Many Afghan refugees have come to the states. Camp Atterbury has led to a large refugee population in Indiana and created discourse surrounding how we should handle the influx of refugees.

“Right now, my biggest concern is the refugees. There’s a lot of refugees coming to Indiana, Camp Atterbury. There’s a lot of people there right now. My biggest hope and my biggest concern is just that these people are welcomed because a lot of these people coming in to America are the same people who made it so we could communicate with the local people, who made it so we didn’t have to wonder what these people are thinking because we don’t speak their language. These people oftentimes put their lives on the line in the same way that I did if not more so. I hope we accept them, I hope we take the time and patience to give them the life they deserve for helping us for so many years,” Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Fischer’s experience provided a new perspective on the war and on the Afghan people. U.S. citizens have, for years, viewed Afghan citizens as much more different from us than they actually are.

“I grew up in a very small farming town, and kind of our whole life was based around the canal in our town. When I got to Afghanistan, it was the exact same situation. Small farming town that was just a bunch of farmers who just wanted to live their life, raise their crops, take care of their family, and go to church. That was really the exact same thing that I grew up with in America. The only difference was they didn’t have all the technology we did and they dressed a little bit different. That really was a huge culture shock for me, seeing that these people who I grew up hearing lived these completely different lives, who have all these different values. When I actually got there, they were pretty much the same. The main difference is that they were Muslim and we were Catholic. Other than that, it was just kind of like stepping back in a time machine. That made the biggest impact, really seeing that these people weren’t different,” Mr. Fischer said.