When the Afghanistan government collapsed after the Taliban took control of the country's capital, Kabul, the scramble by the U.S. to get its people to safety just kept bringing one thought to Afghanistan war veteran Jared Nolen.

"It seems like such a repeat of the pullout from Vietnam," said Nolen, a retired Louisiana National Guardsman from Gonzales who commands the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3693.

"Everyone agrees that it's time to start bringing our soldiers home from Afghanistan," said Nolen, "but not so abruptly and not well thought out."

Nolen, who in 2002 was stationed in Kandahar as a staff sergeant with the National Guard's Company C, 769th Engineer Battalion, said he's felt disbelief and frustration watching Afghanistan's changing story unfold. 

"It gives us a total black eye in the world," he said. "I think that's the sentiment across the board, especially for the people that served in Afghanistan."

The end of the 20-year U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan had originally been set by President Joe Biden for Aug. 31, two weeks from now.

Baker native Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, addressed an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday and called for a halt to attacks on Afghan civilians, protection of the human rights of all people in the country especially women, girls and minorities, and for all parties to prevent terrorism.

“We must all ensure Afghanistan cannot ever, ever again be a base for terrorism,” Thomas-Greenfield said. She added, “Civilian populations, including journalists and non-combatants, must be protected.”

Thomas-Greenfield made no mention of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan but said the role of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the two U.N. envoys _ special representative Deborah Lyons and personal envoy Jean Arnault _ “is especially vital now as we enter an uncertain and crucial period that requires the international community to speak with a clear and unified voice.”

She called on the Taliban “to permit humanitarian organizations to continue their vital work in Afghanistan,” stressing that in addition to violence the Afghan people “are suffering acutely from the effects of COVID-19 and drought” and their needs must remain a top priority.

The U.N. World Food Program is reporting that more than 500 tons of aid are currently sitting at border crossings taken by the Taliban, the U.S. ambassador said, urging that this aid be allowed into Afghanistan immediately.

“Finally and critically, all Afghan nationals and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so safely,” Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that the U,S, promises “to be generous in resettling Afghans” and “we need to all do more.”

Byron Comeaux, the junior commander of the American Legion, Department of Louisiana, said he learned a lesson about being a soldier from his late father, Herman A. Comeaux, a career soldier, who served in Korea and Vietnam.

"Dad said, 'The president is our commander-in-chief, he's our ultimate boss,'" Byron Comeaux remembered on Monday.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

Byron said he'd talk to his father often about things that came up for him, in his own Army service in Iran and Iraq.

"There were a lot of orders I didn't see as correct," Comeaux said. 

And time and time again, his father would tell him, "Our commander-in-chief is the president of the United States." 

"President Trump elected to get the troops out of Afghanistan and President Biden is continuing with that. You just don't stop," Comeaux said.

"You're committed to that, before you waste or hurt more American lives there," he said. 

Suzy McDaniel of Slidell, president and co-founder of the Louisiana nonprofit "Support Our War Heroes," began the organization to assist veterans and their families not long after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

She happened to be in a rehabilitation hospital recovering from shoulder surgery, at the same time an Army soldier was there who had been severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"I was troubled by it," McDaniel said.

With the help of its board, the organization that she and Silvia Muller founded went on to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, from any branch of military service, who received life-changing injuries in the wars, through grants and other forms of assistance.

The organization also provides scholarships for children of members of the military who died while in service in those wars. 

"I'm feeling for every parent who lost a child in Afghanistan," McDaniel said. "It must be so upsetting for them." 

"I personally feel it was time for us to leave," she said. "But I wish it could have been done in a better way." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Email Ellyn Couvillion at ecouvillion@theadvocate.com.