’20 years of work undone in a single week,’ Afghanistan war veterans say they feel crushed

Local News

MCALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — On Monday, four local Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans spoke up about how they feel seeing the Taliban take the country of Afghanistan.

The marble monuments at the Veteran’s War Memorial of Texas shined under the summer sun in the city of McAllen. In a group, almost like a troop, veterans walked up to each face on the memorial in the Afghanistan and Iraq plaques and reminisced on the friends and family lost.

“20 years of work undone in a single week, you know it’s a punch to the gut,” said George Rice, an OEF and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

Operation Enduring Freedom was the name used by the U.S. government following the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. OEF put American soldiers on Afghan territory to attempt to stop the Islamic hardline militant group, the Taliban.

Rice served in the infantry in Afghanistan and served in Iraq, and today he was happy to see his friends, but underneath their laughter was disappointment.

“Kinda ashamed to be an American right now,” said Rice. “The [Taliban] are the same people we were dealing with 20 years ago and the same mentality.”

Luis Martinez a first-generation military OEP veteran said he is at a loss for words recalling his time there.

“The things that I saw! Yeah it was an experience, that’s all I can say,” said Martinez.

Martinez was a Combat Engineer for the U.S. Army. He said he provided road-car for mostly the infantry and said he saw everything you can imagine on those roads.

Martinez said he was born in Mexico and felt proud to be able to give back to America, a country he said gave him everything.

Though Martinez said he is crushed that the Taliban has taken over, sending more U.S. troops back is not the answer.

“You know it would be pointless losing more lives,” said Martinez.

Married couple, Jose and Jessica Villarreal wear their Iraq-Afghanistan veteran hats proudly, though they said the main objective of their work has been compromised in a matter of days.

Credit: (Left to Right) George Rice, Jessica Villarreal, Jose Villarreal, Luis Martinez

“We’re raising two kids that are asking questions about what happened out there and they see this on the news and it’s kind of discouraging,” said Jose Villarreal, an engineer in the 9th Battalion in OEF and OIF.

The Villarreal’s said they want to feel proud, but they can not.

“You want to encourage yourself for it to mean something but right now it doesn’t feel that way,” said Jose Villarreal.

His wife, Jessica, who served in communications for the Army for both Afghanistan and Iraq, said they have all lost somebody in battle and most of what we asked them today was triggering, but important to say.

Jessica said there is deep trauma that comes with serving, and though seeing what has come of Afghanistan is heart-breaking, being alive is a blessing.

“Life is not promised and every day is a blessing to have,” said Jessica Villarreal.

If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with mental health, below is information to connect to the National Veteran’s Crisis Line: or click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Community Stories