A Poem by William H. McRaven: ‘Departing Afghanistan’


The Atlantic has usually channeled the assets of poetry—its charged and speedy patterns of language—to mourn and memorialize the conflict lifeless. The earliest years of the journal spanned the Civil Warfare, throughout which the editors printed dirges, elegies, and ballads that advised tales to console, to heal, to hearten. An elegy for Rupert Brooke took the sonnet into a brand new, fashionable vernacular on the time of the First World Warfare. In October 1944, the journal put collectively a portfolio of Soldier Verse; 1960, The Atlantic printed Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Lifeless,” a poem that displays on the makes use of of monuments and memorials.

“Departing Afghanistan” continues and deepens this legacy. William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral and the previous commander of U.S. Particular Operations Command, wrote “Departing Afghanistan” in June 2021, previous to the evacuation in August.

The poem emerges from a interval of deep reflection and private soul-searching: Had all of the losses, over 20 years, been well worth the struggle? In its emphasis on the expertise of service members, and in its haunting chorus, “Departing Afghanistan” gives neither a protection nor a proof. In spite of everything, the choice to go to Afghanistan and to go away Afghanistan was by no means the choice of the service members.

As an alternative, for this Memorial Day, Admiral McRaven affords a probing inquiry and a sustaining melody—and a message to the service members that, as McRaven put it to me: “for twenty years they fought with braveness and convictions, they stored People secure and they need to don’t have any regrets as we depart Afghanistan.”

— Walt Hunter


The Hindu Kush might be quiet now,
silence will come to the traditional lands.
The roar of the planes
will fade within the evening
as we depart Afghanistan.

The students will chide us
and the pundits will pan,
why did we keep so lengthy
after we ought to have been gone—
gone from Afghanistan.

However the struggle was an excellent one,
noble and proper,
irrespective of how lengthy it took.
Not a soul has been misplaced on American soil,
not a single constructing shook.

For 20 years our individuals had been secure,
residing their lives in peace,
elevating their households throughout the land,
as a result of our troopers fought—
fought in Afghanistan.

It was a tragic waste, some will say,
the lack of so many males.
The rows and rows of headstones
on the graves at Arlington.

However a noble life is rarely a loss,
irrespective of the place they could fall.
To the soldier who did their responsibility,
they’re a hero without end, for all.

Make no mistake about it,
we got here for a righteous trigger.
We fought with braveness and conviction.
We fought for the betterment of all.

And for individuals who cheer our remaining days,
watch out about what you want.
For the destiny of the Afghan individuals
is unlikely to be crammed with bliss.

The kids will weep as their future fades
and previous girls will cry to their males.
“They weren’t so unhealthy,”
the elders will say,
as we depart Afghanistan.

We pray for the individuals of Afghanistan,
they’re heat and kindly souls.
We pray that their future
might be crammed with success
as the times and years unfold.

I hope these we saved will keep in mind us,
and the innocents we harmed will forgive.
However to those that bore arms in opposition to us,
might you remorse every day that you just stay.

The winds will howl via the vacant FOBs,
via the plywood and homes of tin.
The tarmacs will rot
within the noonday solar
as we depart Afghanistan.

Some will say it was proper.
Some will say it was mistaken.
Let the historical past books determine.
However each soldier did their greatest,
of that, nobody can deny.

We ache for these warriors we misplaced
and the family members who bear the ache.
If solely we might have saved all of them,
and introduced them dwelling once more.

The Hindu Kush might be quiet now
and silence will come to the traditional lands.
For individuals who served
let there be no regrets
as we depart Afghanistan.



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