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Wisconsin veterans of War in Afghanistan proud of their service

Justin Brant, Marine Corps veteran
Posted at 5:17 PM, Aug 15, 2021

The government in Afghanistan collapsed on Sunday as Taliban forces seized the capital Kabul.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and many civilians are now attempting to do the same.

Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites served in Afghanistan during the 20 years the U.S. battled the Taliban alongside the Afghan military and other international forces.

According to the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), there are more than 48,700 veterans of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan living in Wisconsin.

Marine Corps veteran Sgt Justin Brant served in Helmand Province during 2012 and 2013.

"We went in for the right reasons in 2001 and did the best we could given the circumstances," said Brant outside of HA Todd American Legion Post 537 in Milwaukee.

The West Allis native, who plans to pursue an MBA at UW-Milwaukee, has post-traumatic stress disorder and survivors guilt, both attributed to his service at home and abroad. But he's found a "battle buddy" back home.

"Honestly it's helped more than any kind of medication ever will," he said of his service dog, Shadow, a year-old golden retriever.

Despite his trauma, he's keen to share his thoughts about his experience in Afghanistan and the Taliban resurgence.

"In a way, you almost feel like it was all for naught. But at the same time, I'm extremely proud of everything we did over there. We went over there, we made a difference, and because of our actions people are going to have a better quality of life," he said. "And with the Taliban taking over, it's sad to hear, but at the same time, it's one of those things that seemed inevitable."

Two decades of battle was unable to dislodge the Taliban and prevent them from taking back the country, which the Islamic fundamentalist group ruled from 1996-2001.

The future of the country, and the Afghan people -- long suffering under war and power often changing hands -- is uncertain.

The Taliban implement a strict version of Islamic law, practices expected to clash with the lifestyles of many of the people who lived under the country's democratically-elected government.

Mark Campbell, a retired Marine Corps and Air Force veteran, served in Afghanistan, at Kandahar Airport, in 2003 and 2004.

"We thought we were doing a mission and helping people out and doing stuff good for the Afghan people, and us as well. We seemed to get along with everyone, said Campbell."

It's the fate of the Afghan people -- especially those who worked with the U.S. military -- who now most concern Brant.

"I'm just hoping we can get the local Afghans who were there to help out the U.S. and kind of get them back to either here or a friendly nation that's been going to take them in," he said.

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