As the United State’s longest war comes to an end with a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and a scramble to evacuate Americans and allies, families of service members who died in the war are reflecting on whether it was all worth it.
Marine Corps Reservist Sgt. Major Robert Cottle, 45, of Whittier and 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Rick Centanni of Yorba Linda both died in Afghanistan in an IED blast in 2010, according to their families.
Cottle left behind a wife, and a daughter who never got to know her father.
“My brother gave his life to help Afghanistan to have democracy, they helped train their army, and then the president leaves, all hell breaks loose,” Cottle’s sister, Bonnie Cottle Roybal said. “It kind of feels like my brother’s death was in vain.”
As the American military left Afghanistan 20 years after the war began, the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban swiftly took over the country.
President Joe Biden has forcefully defended the decision to leave Afghanistan, saying “It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.”
Centanni’s mother, Sarah Leahs, said her son went to war after seeing what happened in 9/11.
“Their sole purpose was to stop the Taliban,” Leahs said of her son and his fellow service members.
The mother said she knew she wasn’t going to see her 19-year-old son again the day he left for the war. And now she’s confronted with what she feels is an unfinished mission that her son gave his life for.
“His thing was to finish mission. I know what he would say, ‘we didn’t finish,'” Leahs said.
Cottle thanked all those who served in Afghanistan like her brother.
“This is not a perfect country, but certainly is one of the best to live in,” she said. “One of the reasons is because my own brother, sacrificed his life.”