The aftershock of the Kabul, Afghanistan, airport bombing rippled through the Tri-State on Friday and into Cincinnati, where local veterans are working to get friends and loved ones out of Afghanistan before U.S. withdrawal wraps up on Aug. 31.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of veterans very recently, and they’re frustrated. A lot of cuss words and a lot of raw emotions,” said retired Air Force Maj. Rusty Mardis.
Mardis worked in Kabul. One of his last missions was to provide facial-recognition technology to Afghan military and police so they could spot members of ISIS, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in crowds, including the crowds that gathered at airports. He also worked with prisoners.
“When Taliban took control, they went through and just unlocked all the gates and let everybody out. Everybody from ISIS to ISIL to Al-Qaeda to Taliban leaders to Iran spies we had in there,” said Mardis.
He's working now to get a friend and their family from Afghanistan to Cincinnati.
“Any affiliation or association with America is considered the enemy,” said Mardis.
That’s why he said the airport full of people fleeing as U.S. troops leave was an obvious target.
“This was no shock, I believe, to really anyone who has any familiarity, that something like this was going to occur. And that's why, in my mind, I struggle, angry, frustrated,” said Mardis.
One family that escaped has made it to the U.S. and is heading to Cincinnati, according to Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio. A mother, father and 8-year-old connected with the organization’s refugee liaison was to get set up here.
“My heart is just broken just thinking about the families,” said former Army specialist Justin Haubner.
He was injured in Afghanistan during his time there from 2008 to 2009. His brother is still active in the Navy.
“The threat is not going away as along as we have troops and families and Afghan people that supported us, and I just think it’s, well, it’s incredibly sad,” said Haubner.
The latest bloodshed is the deadliest attack in the nearly two decades since the U.S. invaded.
“It’s just going to get worse, in my eyes, and that just scares me for them,” said Mardis.
Mardis is the Coordinator at NKU’s Veterans Resource Station. He says veterans who need someone to connect to can contact that office. He encourages family and friends of veterans to reach out to catch up and see how they’re handling the latest developments.
Veterans can also contact American Legions, VFW locations or 22 Until Valhalla.