Now that the last American solider has left Afghanistan, South Florida veterans who served there are reflecting on their time spent fighting the longest war in the country's history.
“I heard the news of the last plane leaving, the last troops departing Afghanistan, you know it's hard to jump up and down and be excited about that given the last few weeks, the visuals that we’ve seen," said Bruce Vitor, in a Zoom call with NBC 6. “The stories coming out of there and the conditions that are there, it's hard to feel good about that and it doesn’t seem that it's in the US or other interests to have a Taliban-run Afghanistan."
Vitor is a Broward County resident who is a West Point graduate and Retired Army Colonel. He spent several years in Afghanistan helping oversee the training of the Afghan Army, was the Chief of Staff to a General and had days in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, for a time one of the most dangerous places on the globe.
NBC 6 asked him if he was surprised at the quick exit of the Afghan Army.
"Maybe not as surprised in the end of the end result, but that it would have taken a much longer time in that there would probably be still be an Afghan government in place," he said.
Vitor now thinks of what was accomplished over the two decades American troops were on the ground, and how most importantly there hasn’t been another 9-11 attack.
"I don’t think it diminishes the time I spent there, the work that I did, or the work of the soldiers and other services who were in Afghanistan for 20 years there," he said. "I think often times we have a paradigm in mind of there’s peace, there’s war. You hang a mission accomplished banner on a carrier and you go back to peace and often times its a little more complicated than that."
Vitor, who is now the Director of Research Information at FIU’s Jack Gordon School of Public Policy, also had a message for those who lost loved one over the years, and in the recent airport attack.
"You try to look at the contributions that they made and make and the people that they are,” he said. "And they should be proud of that, those parts of them live on."
Many South Florida veterans said they are angry over the way the exit was handled this summer. They believe the bravery of those outside the Kabul airport vetting those wanting to escape, and the largest human airlift ever conducted by the US military, is greatly overshadowed by the way August unfolded.