Local Afghanistan veteran reflects on end of military operations

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 6:17 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A veteran who fought in Afghanistan a decade ago says the government offered him a contracted job to be part of the withdrawal.

He knew it would be a dangerous mission, and he declined the offer.

Ray Ropa, who served with the 168th infantry of the Iowa National Guard, was on intelligence in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, during the time Navy SEALs found Osama bin Laden.

Ropa was assigned an interpreter and got to know many Afghan civilians and their families.

He said at the time he was there, they were happy to have the guard there to support them.

Ropa said it was difficult to watch the Taliban take over, causing panic among the Afghan people.

“What really rattled me was how desperate these people are to get out,” Ropa said. “How desperate do you have to be to hold onto the outside of an airplane as it’s taking off and hoping that you can hold on. That’s desperation. I think a lot of people over here don’t understand the dangers over there - of their society, and of that country. And they’ve never lived in fear before.”

He also said he is optimistic that the Taliban is tired of fighting and just wants to rule the country. But he fears they’ll revert to old ways, inciting fear and terrorism in Afghanistan.

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