“‘I feel like I’m still there,’ a Marine told me. ‘I feel like everything that happened, happened five minutes ago.’” Reporting for Task & Purpose, Haley Britzky spoke to 15 soldiers, Marines, and airmen who were part of the Afghanistan withdrawal mission in August 2021. It’s a difficult read, but also a raw and visceral account of what actually happened on the ground in Kabul — a chaotic and horrific experience veterans continue to struggle with while the rest of the world has moved on.

They also described a sort of emotional tug-of-war: they’re proud of having helped the people they could but angry over the lack of accountability for a mission that placed them in such an impossible situation. And as the rest of the world has seemingly moved on, and the Afghanistan withdrawal is relegated to once-a-year news specials, many of those who witnessed the chaos first-hand are still finding their way back.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.