Many veterans are having a hard time processing America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Jared Spude ’15, (Political Science and Public Administration) is no exception. The 2008 Southern Door graduate spent a year with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in the Nangarhar Province bordering Pakistan. “I struggle kind of grasping everything,” he said.
“I’m a realist. I’m pretty pragmatic. I understand it’s not something we could have sustained forever at the tempo we were, but just the way we pulled out, it really felt like we abandoned a lot of people and allowed so much change so quickly. It’s just gut wrenching.”
Spude was a straight-A student and 12-varsity-letter athlete who immediately joined the U.S. Army upon graduation. He told his family that serving his country was the best way he could think of to help people. A couple years later, he was deployed to Afghanistan, largely in the country’s rural mountain villages.
“They were more civil there, but I can tell you the nightmares I still have, the most haunting things in my life, revolve around the treatment of little girls and women,” he said. Spude was a joint forward observer who coordinated air strikes from the ground, but they carried out missions as demanded by the remote geography and tribal culture. Sometimes, that meant mediating a clash between warring village leaders. Other times, they were protecting women and keeping the schools open for the girls who could finally attend once the U.S. had unseated the Taliban and hunted down the Al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America.
“I felt fulfilled when I came home from Afghanistan,” he said. “I know we helped a lot of the people in the rural villages. I think in my heart we made a difference, but what’s happening today is hard to grasp because a lot of that will be wiped out.”As a father of a young daughter, he fears for the fate of women who are once again under Taliban rule.