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US Troops Turn War Over to Their Children

19 years in, generations don't always agree on whether progress is being made
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2020 5:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – The longest war in US history now spans generations. Service members who were deployed to Afghanistan, starting 19 years ago last week, are turning the mission over to their children. Since 2002, Master Sgt. Trevor deBoer has served three tours in what the government called the war against terrorism, Stars and Stripes reports. Spc. Payton Sluss has been deployed there as well, stationed at a base where his father served. "My feet were walking the same land you were," Sluss told deBoer. His father said he often wondered during his tours if the US effort was making any progress. "When we started this, people asked why I was going, and my response was, 'So my sons don’t have to fight this war,'" deBoer said. His son sees progress, however incremental, citing changes in women's rights, free speech and education. "An inch is an inch, progress is progress no matter what," he said. The US still suffers casualties in Afghanistan.

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The job is different for this generation. Operation Enduring Freedom ended in 2014, per the New York Post. With the Taliban protecting al-Qaeda, Americans now concentrate on training local forces and rebuilding the country. "Afghanistan didn’t have a functioning toilet when I showed up," said Capt. Bajun Mavalwalla, who arrived in 2002. When he returned as an adviser in 2012, he was amazed by the improvements. His son, also Bajun Mavalwalla, who was deployed in 2012, is more discouraged. "I wanted to go out and help people, serve my country. … I just sort of contributed to this deepening mire," he said. The elder Mavalwalla's view is across generations. "You have to have seen what it was 20 years ago, and then see it again 10 years later, to appreciate the improvement," the father said. Another veteran whose son has served in Afghanistan said he just hopes his grandson won't someday have to go fight the same battles "for the same reason." (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)

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