Just days after the 20-year war in Afghanistan ended, Point Loma Nazarene University military-affiliated students, Student Veterans of America members and Military Services gathered on campus on 9/11 to pay tribute to those affected by the attacks, hosted by the Student Veterans Association.
“I believe the significance of this ceremony was to provide our student veterans an opportunity to come together and remember that day and to reflect on that day’s impact on their lives,” said Thomas Egan, Director of PLNU Military Services. “For many of our veterans, the events of 9/11 were the impetus for them to join and serve in the military.”
Egan said he knew it was especially important to get veterans together this year as the war ended in Afghanistan and the Taliban took control. As President Joseph Biden has said again and again, the Afghan War is the longest conflict in American history. For the last two decades many service members from all branches have supported some aspect of that war. Many of those veterans now struggle with PTSD and disabilities or grapple with the loss of their comrades there. Therefore, the relinquishment of the country to the Taliban has been a blow to many.
Afghan war vets nationwide expressed their frustration, many feeling their sacrifices during the war were now worthless. The US Government’s Veterans Affairs website offers various ways for Afghan war vets to find help assuring them their service to Afghanistan was not in vain. The VA is even presenting a four-part podcast series crafted for Afghan war vets and their families.
Egan wants to make sure PLNU military-affiliated students are equally bolstered during this tough time.
“They should all know that, despite the politics, they served our nation and, more importantly, each other honorably and selflessly,” said Egan.
Ellis Needy, a Marine veteran who served two tours to Afghanistan as infantry and special operations, attended the ceremony. He is now a psychology major at PLNU. During his time in Afghanistan his only resolve was to “get back home with all of my friends and limbs intact.” But, during the fall of Kabul on August 15, he was thinking of those he left behind.
“As Kabul fell I was remembering specific Afghanistan National Army (ANA) soldiers I fought alongside, and debated the principles of Christianity versus Islam with,” said Needy. “I wonder if they will live or are even alive at this point.”
As part of the SVA ceremony, Egan not only honored those affected by 9/11 and its subsequent wars, but the 13 service members more recently lost during a bombing at the Kabul airport. After reading the names of those departed, Egan asked the assembly to take a moment of silence.
“They were the last military members to be killed in Afghanistan,” said Egan. “It was right to take time and remember them. May we never forget.”
After the ceremony, attendees moved to the grass in front of the Golden Gymnasium to stick small American flags into the grass. The flags represented something different for each who put one out. Passing students could also put out a flag in remembrance. The idea for the flags came from fourth year marketing major Logan Kolssak.
Egan says he feels the ceremony was important as a way for vets to commune during a potentially tough time. He hopes to continue to host this ceremony annually with the SVA.
By: Amber Robinson