PARÉ: It didn’t have to be this way

Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Kandahar, southwest Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Sidiqullah Khan)

I am a military wife, and I always will be. For the first twelve years of marriage, I watched my husband, Lt. Colonel Wayne Paré, deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan five different times. When he was a Company Commander in the Army’s 1st Ranger Battalion, I led a family readiness group of 120 military families who were experiencing the same thing as mine.

When I met my husband, he had already been deployed twice, so I knew what I signed up for: a life filled with dedication to the Armed Forces. It didn’t get easier each time Wayne had to leave me and our two children, Madison and Cole, but I learned to live with it because my heart swelled with pride every time I thought of my husband fighting to defend freedom and promote peace.

When Wayne retired in 2018 after 20 years of active duty, he did so knowing that the United States was on the right track. My husband often says that his father volunteered for two tours in Vietnam so that his son wouldn’t have to, and I know that’s one of the reasons my husband volunteered to join the Armed Forces too. But now, he fears that our 11-year old son will be in Afghanistan one day cleaning up President Joe Biden’s self-created mess, and so do I.

President Biden said that Taliban control of Afghanistan was “highly unlikely” when he announced his goal to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, but now we know that’s far from the truth. In a little over a month, Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been evacuated, and it all started when Biden hastily withdrew troops from the area.

When I saw the image of the United States flag from the Embassy in Kabul being flown out of Afghanistan, my heart broke for the people, like my husband, who risked everything to protect the values that the flag stands for.  At the same time, it also broke for the Afghani women and children whose chance to realize their own dreams is being shattered, for the brave Afghani people who risked their lives to assist American soldiers like my husband, and for the young women being ripped from their homes and forced into marrying members of the Taliban.

In a matter of weeks, the Taliban regime has seized helicopters, Humvees, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, drones, and even anti-aircraft guns and artillery. They have broken open prisons, allowing an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 inmates to roam free, including members of Al Qaeda. U.S. defense officials now worry that the Taliban takeover will give Al Qaeda a safe haven and allow them to rebuild. Chaos has taken residence in Afghanistan because of an ill-thought-out withdrawal that has left thousands of Afghan civilians without refuge.

I know that as they watch the events in Afghanistan unfold, my husband and other American soldiers are asking themselves if their sacrifices are being undone? When we need hope the most, President Biden was nowhere to be found. We had to watch the Taliban regime give a press conference at the Afghan presidential palace before Biden even took the podium.

It didn’t have to be this way, but it is and it’s all because of President Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. My prayers are with the Afghan people as they cling to hope. I am so sorry that our commander-in-chief abandoned you in your hour of need.

State Rep. Erin Paré represents southern Wake County in NC House District 37 in the North Carolina General Assembly