‘We all feel betrayed.’ Veterans, Gold Star families can’t believe swiftness of Taliban takeover

The upheaval in Afghanistan is being felt in New Jersey, especially by veterans who spent the last 20 years fighting the war.

News 12 Staff

Aug 18, 2021, 2:29 AM

Updated 971 days ago

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The upheaval in Afghanistan is being felt in New Jersey, especially by veterans who spent the last 20 years fighting the war. Many say they are frustrated and disappointed with how quickly the Taliban took over. And there is also a big concern for vulnerable veterans who are suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.
“The past day, I’ve cried. I’ve gotten angry,” says Marion Zilinski who lost her son Dennis to a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2005.
Zilinski says she knows how hard the upheaval in Afghanistan is on her. And she says she can only imagine how veterans she works with through the memorial fund she started in her son’s honor are feeling.
“I know what they are going to be thinking, that what they did was in vain,” Zilinski says. “Now they’re getting upset. They’re reliving what happened there, what they did there…and they feel like they’ve lost. And it’s devastating to them.”
The Gold Star mother says that she is especially worried about veterans suffering from PTSD, and wants them to know that all they did and all they sacrificed was not for nothing.
“It’s completely gut-wrenching. It’s probably the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced,” says retired Col. Jeff Cantor.
Cantor founded and runs the New Jersey Veterans Chamber of Commerce. He says that he knows that his fellow veterans are feeling betrayed, because it is exactly how he feels. He calls the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan “catastrophic.”
“We all feel betrayed. I think a sense of guilt that we worked so hard and it all went south,” Cantor says.
Serving for 32 years with tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Cantor wrote an open letter to his fellow veterans reminding them that the hard work in the War on Terror- is something to be proud of.
“And while we were there – for 20 years there – Americans remained safe. There were no terrorist attacks on the homeland base in Afghanistan. We did our jobs and we did it well,” Cantor says.
He says that his concern is for the Afghan allies who cooperated and worked with soldiers. But he says the priority must be getting Americans home safely.
Zilinski, meanwhile, is encouraging any veteran who needs help or feels alone to reach out.
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