Guilderland’s Gold Star fathers: sons lost in a war America has now lost

“We are just devastated,” said Raymond Clark.

Clark is the father of Lt. Col. Todd J. Clark, killed in an insider attack by an Afghan National Army soldier on June 8, 2013, in which two other people were also killed and three injured.

Elder Clark is one of three Gold Star Fathers from Guilderland who lost a child to the war in Afghanistan. “The day my son died was the worst day of my life. And that, the world events right now, comes right after. “

The Taliban were in power when the United States started its war in Afghanistan 20 years ago, and the Taliban are back in power now. The United States had hoped to see it as a stable democracy, backed by a strong army, but that hope collapsed just days after the last American troops left.

Clark, who is known to his friends as “Jack”, said he was not yet in a position to formulate many clear ideas on recent developments, but said the troop withdrawal did not appear. well planned strategically.

“At least they haven’t forgotten the Gold Star families,” he said.

Many presenters, he said, told viewers to remember the people who lost loved ones in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world in the global war on terrorism. Military generals have gone on television telling Gold Star families, “The deaths of your children have not been in vain,” he added, his voice broken.

LC Clark has completed a total of seven deployments, including five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his fourth combat tour, in Afghanistan, he was struck by an improvised explosive device, an improvised explosive device, and he then spent eight months recovering at Walter Reed Hospital where he was involved in the Wounded Warrior Project.

On his fifth and final tour, he returned to Afghanistan as Senior Advisor to the Afghan National Army and commanded the base where he was killed, Afghanistan’s largest forward operating base, serving with the 10th Mountain Division.

Rafael Nieves Sr., whose son was the only one of the three to be killed in action, tried to express his feelings about the end of the war. “It’s sad, and it’s – I don’t know what to think anymore. I have the impression that we went there for nothing. My son lost his life for no reason.

Army specialist Rafael Nieves Jr. was 22 when he was killed on July 10, 2011, with a bullet to the chest while holding the top of a tank and fired back while patrolling in a remote area near the Afghan border with Pakistan.

In the service of the 101st Airborne Division, he had been stationed overseas as an infantryman since the previous November. He was due home only two weeks later, where he had a wife and two young children waiting.

“We should be in Afghanistan right now,” said his father, who owns AC’s Towing and Recovery with his wife. His tow truck is adorned with his son’s photo, stars and stripes and the word “NEVER FORGET”.

He added: “I think our president should never have withdrawn our troops. We had everything under control.

But Nieves also said he was comforted to know his son had died doing something he loved.

Another insider attack

Major General Harold J. Greene, who died August 5, 2014 at the age of 55, was the most senior officer killed in an active combat zone since the Vietnam War. Major-General Greene was an engineer, serving his first posting in a combat zone. Its main task was to set up training programs for the Afghan army and provide the necessary logistical support for these programs.

He was shot dead, his father Harold F. Greene recalls, by a member of the Afghan security team tasked with “sweeping” areas through which dignitaries would pass during their visit, ensuring that buildings were clear of fire. threat. He and other officials at the time were visiting the country’s equivalent of West Point, the premier training ground for military officers.

“The security team was made up of people you trust,” said Jon Greene, the younger brother of the major general, whose elder Greene was visiting the house. “They have to be, right? You go through guard towers and other places where there are armed people.

He continued, “I saw it a thousand times in my head. Why was this guy allowed to have a gun so close – but you have to trust someone. No one had foreseen that the threat would come from the security team.

Harold F. Greene is not surprised by the withdrawal of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban. “It was a country that was still very unstable and could have gone one way or the other, towards democracy or, what would you call it, towards a country based on force,” he said. declared.

Elder Greene sees current events through a long lens. He does not see the recent Taliban takeover as a disaster, he said, or even as an end. “To return to Europe after World War II, there is an evolution that brings a country back to democracy, even after Taliban types take power.” Such a change, Greene said, is “an evolving type of thing that happens over a period of years.”

His son had told him in the year of his death that US efforts to build a strong Afghan army were progressing, but there was still a long way to go before the Afghans could provide for themselves.

“Maybe they never got to that point,” Greene said this week. At best, he continued, Afghanistan has “a long and difficult road ahead”.

And the United States no longer has internal contacts or input into decision-making, said Harold F. Greene. “By itself, this can be expressed as a loss if you wish.”

He said the United States and Afghanistan lost a lot with the death of his son.

The fathers of LTC Clark and MG Greene are veterans. Jack Clark made a career in the military and retired as a colonel. Harold F. Greene spent 14 months in Korea between World War II and the Korean War, attended college on the GI Bill, and spent about 30 years teaching math and science in high school.

Because of his military background, he is better equipped to deal with the end of the war than his wife and son are, Clark said. But even so, he can’t help but watch the news which is the source of so much consternation.

Jon Greene said his father had told him a few nights earlier that the United States had two objectives in Afghanistan and that one was successful: to protect the United States from potential attacks at home. The other goal was to make this permanent, helping to make Afghanistan a stable democracy.

“And that unfortunately won’t happen,” said Jon Greene.

Sources of support

Clark was cheered up when asked about his grandchildren, Todd’s children.

He explained that his 21-year-old granddaughter Madison will graduate in December with a special education degree from Texas A&M, Todd’s alma mater, and then come up north to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Albany.

Grandson Collin is a second lieutenant in the army and will serve in the Second Cavalry Regiment, where his father was a troop commander. Clark said, “My grandson is going to be a great officer; he’s phenomenal.

Clark looks forward to the seventh annual TJ Clark Memorial Golf Tournament, which this year takes place on September 11 at the Western Turnpike Golf Course. “September 11 was the only date they had,” he said, and that date seemed very appropriate to him. The event always begins with a ceremony featuring groups of local veterans and motorcyclists, who have been a constant support for his family, he said, as well as a bagpiper and chaplain.

“When Todd got home,” he said, referring to his son’s last flight home from Afghanistan, 250 members of the American Legion Riders and Patriot Guard Riders locals were there for the honor at the airport.

The golf event brings in about $ 20,000 each year to veterans organizations, Clark said. “It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said. He added, almost in a low voice, “besides sacrificing my son.”

About Joaquin Robertson

Joaquin Robertson

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