Many formerly-serving U.S. Marines have watched the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan with some mix of emotions. I have experienced, and also read and heard from my fellow Marines, a mix of cynicism, disgust, anger, sadness, betrayal, and a sense of injustice. Regardless of their opinions on U.S. policy, many feel a call to act.
Some Marines did not hesitate. They jumped right in and organized themselves to save thousands of Afghans from Kabul. These selfless volunteers—Marines, Soldiers, civilians, and other military members serving with Task Force Dunkirk, No One Left Behind, Team America, and other ad hoc volunteer groups—will continue their work.
SO WHAT NOW, MARINE?
Not everyone has the connections, time, or resources to volunteer full time. Most don’t know how to get started. This is my simple advice. It is just advice. Feel free to agree or disagree, take it or leave it, modify it, or pass it along. I’m writing this for Marines because I am responding to my fellow Marines. I hope it is also more broadly useful.
Re-channel the negative energy. There’s plenty to be angry and cynical about right now. The feelings are legitimate. But anger won’t be useful balled up or yelled out. Consider that anger like potential energy that can be used for positive change.
Take thoughtful, professional action. Rant to your buddies. I have done so. Then take your rechanneled energy, be professional, and calmly take legal, positive action. Here are some options. This is a simple list designed to fit on one page. Expand it.
If you have money to donate, give it now to No One Left Behind. Their baseline request is for $25. Think about what your money will mean to an Afghan family who just lost their home and belongings, are in a strange land, and speak no English. There are other options for donation. More options will emerge over time. Seek them out.
If you can string together a few sentences, do so. Send your draft to a publication or publish it yourself. Remember that editors have to manage risk, control reputation, fit to size, and change for style. Don’t let their restraints stop you from expressing useful thoughts. Write, set aside, review, and post to social media. If you are not a practiced writer, narrate to someone or ask for help. Rants only energize those who already agree. Calm, direct writing delivered thoughtfully will be most effective in changing minds.
VOLUNTEER AND ORGANIZE AT ANY LEVEL
Even if you can’t match the level of organization and success of NOLB, TF Dunkirk, or Team America, you can put together volunteers to co-sign a letter to political leaders, or gather up food, clothes, and toys for refugees, or volunteer with a veterans’ organization. Your legal, responsible civic action matters individually and collectively. Act, Marine!
– Ben Connable, USMC, Retired