JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Some of the troops returning from Afghanistan over the next few months are from the Tri-Cities region. Some paid the ultimate price during this war in the Middle East, some will return with unimaginable trauma.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Johnson City, though, told News Channel 11 they will be welcomed with open arms.
“I think it’s a good thing. I mean, whenever we bring the troops home it’s a good thing. I went through it once I was in Vietnam I come home, obviously,” said TJ Miles, Commander of Johnson City VFW Post. “I know a lot of them are coming back with a lot of baggage so if you do – talk to somebody, you know, I went with a lot of guys that came back and didn’t and it didn’t turn out so well.”
As the VFW’s membership dwindles, Miles said he thinks this fresh wave of veterans could mean a lot to the future of the Johnson City post.
“I mean, the VFW – we’re losing a multitude of members, because of just through attrition because of their age through World War II, the Korean War, I believe we lost our last World War II vet two years ago. And we have the Korean war vets, but even them, they are getting up in age most of those are in their 80s, and even Vietnam veterans are in their late 60s, 70s. So, we need the new blood in here and I mean the VFW can do a lot more for them than what they think it’s not just a place to, you know, go and socialize with the guys, we offer quite a bit, we do quite a bit for the community and stuff so it’ll be a good thing and just bringing them home period is a good thing,” he said.
To former U.S. Army Combat Medic Joseph Holsclaw, the line in the Soldier’s Creed that reads “I will always put the mission first,” means that the mission ought to be complete before the troops are pulled from the Middle East.
“I’ve got mixed feelings but be honest with you. I think withdrawal of troops is for morale and things of the troops is probably a great thing, but do we spend that much money to go over there and not complete the job? Are we finished with a job? Are we done doing what we went over to do? I think about the sacrifices all the soldiers have made to go over there and fight for that, and fight for the right to be able to set up their own constitution and do the things they’re supposed to, but I don’t think we’re completely done,” he said.
Holsclaw served in the Middle East Conflict, primarily in Iraq, from 2004 to 2005. As America’s longest war draws to an end, he said he hopes the mission can also draw to an end.
“I think it could have been in less than 20 years I, I definitely do I, I don’t know 20 years is a long time but you know you think about the Korean conflict and we’ve still got troops in Korea,” he said. “You know and I know there’s still an imminent threat there with North Korea and things of that nature, but do we spend 20 and 30 and 50 years of someplace keep dumping money into it and it’s not serving the purpose that we went over to do?”
To the troops who gave their all, Holsclaw had a simple “thank you” to offer.
“There’s nothing that’s going to be that comforting to people, that’s been there, especially the ones that’s made the ultimate sacrifice over there, the ones that went over and been injured and permanently disabled now for the rest of their lives and things like that. Bless all the troops, and I hope and pray that that some way God finds it in His heart and sends them home safely to their family and the family members, they’ve got just hardest jobs solely because they’re missing a family just everyday just like they’re missing their family, and it’s harder on them not knowing where they’re at what they’re doing and what’s going on from day to day basis I know how communication is tough over there,” Holsclaw said.
One of those who paid the ultimate price was Senior Airman Benjamin White.
His mother, Brenda Shelton, had a message for the families of those returning from the war:
“Definitely want to welcome them all home it’s gonna be good to. I always try to wear a red shirt on Fridays and I have done that even before my son was deployed to remember everyone deployed – red Fridays. And for those families: hug them tight. This past Monday, April 12th, just a couple of days ago, was the last time I saw my son in 2010. You never know when it’s going to be the last time that you’re able to see that family member, whether it’s your child, your husband, your wife, and you never know when it’s the last time so hold them tight and celebrate them being home,” Shelton said.
She added that she thinks 20 years may have been a few too many years for troops to have remained in the region.
“Of course I’m very happy to hear that because I think it’s probably way long overdue because I’m not sure exactly how much we’ve been benefiting over there in the last in the, in the later years,” Shelton added.
Former President Donald Trump vowed to get troops out of that region by May of 2021. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced he’d like to see the last few troops leave Afghanistan on the anniversary of the reason for the war: September 11.
“I have kind of mixed feelings on it. 9/11 to me was, was a horrendous day, and I don’t think it’s going to take any of the bite out of it by just bringing them home by 9/11. If we’re going to bring them home, then why not just bring them home now. I don’t see what three months is going to do. Just bring them home now. I mean why announcing, just pull them out,” Miles told News Channel 11 in reaction.