An encounter with Christ during the Fall of Kabul
Our religion will give you peace and joy, but it’s not always just about that. God tests us. He tests us to see if we have hope and embrace the Hope-beyond-hope promised to us in Christ’s resurrection. Sometimes, it’s your time to go and the decision you’ll have to make is whether you’ll stand tall and true to the end, or buckle and break in your last moments. It might not even actually be your time to go when that happens, but it’ll look like it.
Well, that time came for thirteen men and women a little over a week after the downfall of the Republic of Afghanistan, and from what I’ve heard through some people who knew them, I’m confident many of them stood tall and true to the end.
The word first came to us over a conference call. There were reports of hearing a loud explosion. I contacted our people at their respective sites asking what they’d been able to hear. We were still trying to determine the nature of what had happened. They confirmed that they heard a loud explosion, and were unable to determine what it was.
Time is distorted in my recollection of these events. I can’t remember how long exactly it took but the facts eventually started to be pushed out. Details were nebulous at first, as they can be in these sorts of situations. Americans were dead as well as civilians. A suicide vest had been detonated at one of the gates. The numbers at the time were a ranged estimate gradually narrowing down.
Naturally, there are details which are sensitive to individuals both living and deceased in this event which I won’t and can’t republish here. Let it be said that men were shocked and bloodied. Let it be said that the hospital was right next to our building, a minute walk from our battle-desk, and that we passed it every day walking back to our barracks. All I can remember that night is walking down that road, vision tunneling on just getting back to my room. My soldiers told me about the sights we’d passed by afterwards.
When I got back to my room, when I was alone, I collapsed to the floor and wept. If I were a melodramatic person, predisposed to hypersensitivity and theatrics, I might’ve blamed God in that moment, or let this slaughter poison me in other ways. It was difficult even to hate the men we’d been fighting these past twenty years. We were in their country, trying to force them to live in ways they didn’t want to live.
Yet, here were my dead countrymen. Did their ghosts not cry out for vengeance? Well, I’m no clairvoyant and learned that the hot-headed youth I once was had died.
We still had to go on as normal. Our schedules changed as the evacuation progressed. Namely, the shifts got longer but what else was there to do except work? My friends, there were more moments of fear afterwards.
I continued to pray every night, always thinking about the dead. How there’d been so many baby-faces among them, younger even than me. Boys who in the moment of their manhood’s bloody blossoming had been cut down. Girls who would never be mothers. People who would never grow old, whose time on this earth had been cruelly hacked off at their respective premature ages.
We were all miserable after that day, trying to keep our spirits high on the outside, but souring inside. Those of us who stayed to the end most of all. But, we all made it. There were many awful nights during those two weeks between the downfall of the Republic of Afghanistan and our flight out. The last was the best and the second worst in terms of fear.
When I got to Kuwait I slept for seventeen hours straight. When I woke, I swore to God that I would live for those who had died, that I would live enough for these thirteen people. A nihilistic man would’ve taken that fire and let it burn him down. A man of faith vowed to do his best to listen to God and follow that ancient command, “Our Father, thy will be done.”
From that day forward, I have worked tirelessly towards what I think God put me on this earth to do. Developing habits for myself every day that I follow to pursue goals which will serve those ends. Day in and day out for ten months since then I have put iron in my heart as I grind away.
When I returned, I sought reconciliation on Easter Vigil and attended Mass, taking communion for the first time since 2019. God has led me ever since to share His love with my family, my friends and the strangers He places in my path.