Gold Star family reacts to fall of Afghanistan

Local News

(WTAJ) — The images of chaos we’re seeing from Afghanistan are bringing about many emotions, especially for veterans and their families.

As the Taliban’s blitzkrieg in the country unfolded, many Gold Star Families are left wondering if their loved one’s sacrifice was in vain.

“A slap in the face,” Donnella Raible, who lost her husband in 2012 while he was serving in Afghanistan, said. “It is so offensive that they would do that and just pull right out of there. I mean there is a way to do it, a systematic way to do it. You don’t have to just up and leave one day.”

Donnella’s husband, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, grew up in Huntingdon County. He knew early on in his life he wanted to fly jets.

“Apparently his dad took him to a Blue Angels airshow when he was a kid and he was sold right about then,” Donnella explained. “He wanted to fly jets from that moment on so that was his goal.”

Lt. Col. Raible at his desk in Afghanistan at Camp Bastion

Lt. Col. Raible joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1995. Directly after September 11th, 2001, he was deployed to Afghanistan to fight the War on Terror, ultimately sacrificing his life for our country.

Lt. Col. Raible was killed in action in 2012 when several insurgents from the Taliban dressed up in American uniforms and cut the barbed wire surrounding the base. They blew up the Harriers that were sitting on the flight line and also blew up a fuel tank. Lt. Col. Raible was back at the barracks for the night, but when he heard the guns he drove over to help. At some point he was killed in the firefight.

“All of this work, all of this blood, sweat, and tears by the thousands of military members that have been over there for 20 years and it’s just, in one moment, poof, up in smoke, gone,” Donnella said while talking about Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan so easily as U.S. troops pull out. “They have completely annihilated all of the efforts that our military have put forward over the last 20 years to keep some stability in the region. It is going to get uglier before it gets better, I can promise you that.”

Donnella agrees that after 20 years the war needs to end, but it’s the way it’s happening that scares her for the future. She is now fearful about getting people to safety and evacuating those who spent years helping the U.S.

Lt. Col. Raible’s deployment to Al Asad in Iraq

“There’s a lot of people that have helped Americans,” she said. “Those are the first [the Taliban] are going to go for is anyone who has helped an American. It is soul crushing to see that.”

President Biden said on Monday in a press conference that the situation did unfold more quickly than anticipated, but stands by his decision.

“I cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life, shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss,” President Biden said. “This is not in our national security interest.”

For Donnella, the timing of the withdrawal leaves her thinking about her hero husband and a desire to leave a message as we watch America’s longest war come to an end.

“I wanted to come and do this interview so people realize the impact it is having on American families who have spent time and effort over there in other countries trying to keep us safer over here,” Donnella said.

Seeing the images from Afghanistan can be difficult for veterans who have returned to civilian life. If you or someone you know is a veteran in crisis, you can call the James E. Van Zandt Medical Center at 1-800-273-8255 or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at 1-800-698-2411.

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