DENVER — On Thursday night, flags in Colorado and across the country are flying at half-staff for the 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan. Troops were assisting evacuation efforts at the airport in Kabul when suicide bombers attacked.
"I can't imagine what their family members and friends could be feeling right now," said Tony Adams, an Army veteran that served in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from 2009 to 2010.
Adams served in the country as an infantry team leader and unit medic. He said some of his missions were serious.
"Actively trying to find Taliban," he said.
Other missions were to provide humanitarian aid.
"Something I always liked doing was giving the kids candy while we were out on missions, providing medical aid, letting them know that we were there to help them," Adams said.
Adams said he wasn't sure the Thursday's tragedy could've been prevented but felt ongoing evacuation efforts could've been handled more tactically.
"I was in tactical missions in Afghanistan, and the thing you never do when you're leaving: You never tell someone when and where. And that, by definition — the when and the where of those things — is tactical. So, by definition, I feel like what we've been doing has not been tactical. If the mission is to get out of there, then we need to tactically get out of there," he said.
For the service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice, Adams said, "Their time and their efforts that they've done for their country will not be forgotten."
Colorado Rep. David Ortiz, a former Army helicopter pilot who was paralyzed from a crash in Afghanistan said the U.S. needs to "continue the mission until we get every American out."
Ortiz joined the Army in 2008, went through flight school and was stationed at Fort Bragg before deploying in 2011. The helicopter crash that paralyzed Ortiz happened in 2012, shortly after he turned 30.
"We were deployed in Khost Province, Afghanistan," he said.
Ortiz said the past week has caused he and other veterans to reflect about their time in the country. He said the "politicization" of the circumstances had been disheartening.
"It was really disheartening to hear from pundits — talking heads, honestly — people that haven't thought, or given us a thought in the past 20 years of what we've been doing and sacrificing and fighting. Because for 20 years, we have given the American people 20 years of conflict, without needing a draft, without needing rationing and without needing to buy war bonds or anything like that," the lawmaker said. "They virtually have been able to enjoy 20 years of security that we've provided without having to sacrifice really much of anything."