Opinion from Two Local Veterans about the Afghanistan Situation

Report by Paula Antolini, August 20, 2021, 9:23PM EDT

The Bethel Advocate recently asked local veterans these questions: Can you send us your opinion/feelings about what has happened in Afghanistan this past week? Do you agree with the decision, yes or no, and why? How do you think this will affect American soldiers? (and anything else you might want to say).

Two army veterans have responded, Vaesna Roeun and Michael Kacer (a third declined because he was busy teaching bible study, which we respect). Read their viewpoints below.

Editor Note: If there are any other local veterans (Bethel and surrounding towns) who have served overseas, that would like to send in their opinions of the Afghanistan situation, please contact us at betheladvocate@aol.com and we can add your thoughts here. Also notify us on Facebook / Bethel Advocate that you’d like to contribute.


Staff Sergeant Vaesna Roeun

Veasna Roeun

Veasna Roeun, 42, married with two daughters, is a Public Health Coordinator for City of Danbury, and a Danbury resident. He’s given 10 years of service in the United States Army, served in Balkan 2001 to 2002 and in Afghanistan 2006 to 2007. He was Honorably Discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Cambodian War Refugee. American Soldier. American Citizen. Human and Political Rights Activist.

Roeun is currently the Republican candidate running for 4th Ward City Council, Danbury, CT. 

He is a decorated U.S. Army veteran with many medals. Roeun said, “You will see the top most medal on my left chest. It’s sky blue, has an old Springfield rifle with a wreath wrapped around it. It’s called the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) and only awarded to infantryman who’ve been in direct combat. I have over 5 dozen combat engagements logged in a platoon journal with 3 of my own men sent home after being gravely wounded. How I made it out is divine intervention. I was sworn in as an American citizen on Bagram Airfield on Veterans day 2006–it adds to the hurt.

Roeun said, “The first picture (view below) are with my fireteams Alpha and Bravo and taken right before we blew up a weapons cache. What you see are daisy chained C4 explosives. The second picture (view below) is my fireteam Alpha after a recon patrol.”


Here are Roeun’s words:

I am devastated. As I watched my years of service and the sacrifices made in Afghanistan diminished to nothing in a matter of hours, the pain of abandonment was not only the feeling of a soldier I once was, but of the Killing Field survivor I will always be. I share as much in common with the unintended victims of war as I do with those entrusted to fight in them. Not too long ago, my home country of Cambodia watched hopelessly as Americans pulled out of Phnom Penh when the Lon Nol government they once propped up, failed to defeat the Khmer Rouge. Less than three weeks later and right next door, our Vietnamese neighbors in Saigon helplessly experienced the very same tragedy as America also made its retreat from the roof top of an American embassy while the Viet Minh closed in on the city. The world would come to witness the effects of our follies immediately after their fall. August 15 of 2021, history repeats for a third time not too far away.

An attempt for reason with post-traumatic stress once again gave way to depression, anger and hopelessness with every image coming through the television. The endless vocals of pundits and news anchors contributed to an irritation consistent with tinnitus that commonly afflicts those who were continually exposed to the thundering sounds of gunfire and battlefield explosions. There is no amount of dialogue that could ever excuse or justify the failure of an embarrassing exfil operation—this is not a political opinion, it’s a statement of fact coming from military experience and American foreign policy history. There is no more damning evidence than recorded history in the 50 years span our country has engaged in war.

We’d swore to leave no one behind, and we had promised to aid our allies, but those oaths have become empty and shameful like the juvenile act of ending a relationship through texts. We’d just ghosted the Afghan people and watching them fight through a gauntlet of terror and uncertainty for a chance to hang on to the wheel of a retreating aircraft. The bloodied and bruised lucky ones will have a safe cold sheet of metal to lay on as altitude is made and I hope this country, at the very least, take in and care for those who aided us during our time in their country.

I’m still attempting to come to terms with the meaning of my service and I am blessed to have Vietnam veterans hold my hand through this process. The government might’ve trained me well to be a solider and although I train myself to be a veteran, my devastation is nothing compared to what our Afghan allies are going through this very moment. We’d stayed there much longer than we need to, and we had to leave, but we should never leave in the manner that we are.

It matters not who is President or which party is in power. Our credibility is built on victories and defined by failures with the common denominator being our humanity because that is our strength. We own it as a country. America ultimately must answer for this latest failure because we owe them…we owe our Afghan friends as much as our NATO allies.

Vaesna Roeun fireteams Alpha and Bravo and taken
right before they blew up a weapons cache.
Vaesna Roeun’s fireteam Alpha after a recon patrol.
Vaesna Roeun wedding.
Vaesna Roeun daughters.
Roeun is currently the Republican candidate running for 4th Ward City Council, Danbury, CT.


Staff Sergeant (SSG) Michael Kacer

Michael Kacer

Michael Kacer, 39, married 5 years with a one-year-old daughter, medically retired due to blast trauma, student of Physical Education Teaching in Cary, NC, where he now lives, formerly lived in Yonkers, NY and Ridgefield, CT. Joined the Pennsylvania National Guard in February 1999 to May 2012. Deployed to Bosnia 2002 to 2003, Iraq 2004 to 2005 and Afghanistan 2008.  Medically retired as a Staff Sergeant (SSG) of an Infantry unit.

Michael Kacer was on a mission on foot patrol, assisting another company, when he was wounded in action in June 2008 at age 26.  A 110mm rocket came through the roof of a concrete building he was in and landed about ten feet away from him. This resulted in multiple internal and external injuries. He said he had a 6-inch skull fracture, traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple wounds on his torso and face, ear to ear fractures in about 24 locations, jaw broken in three places, three broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, a severed intestine and a mangled arm, leading to the amputation of his left arm above the elbow. He also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Several of his buddy soldiers lost their lives in that moment.

Others in his unit were also badly wounded.  Kacer said he lost his Medic, age 19, and his Mechanic, age 36, who died instantly.  He said a civilian contractor has his right arm severed and his Master Sgt. severed his femoral artery and had severe right forearm damage.  All had families who loved them, Kacer said.

Kacer was eventually flown to Washington, D.C., and admitted to Walter Reed Hospital.  His recovery was long and difficult and he still struggles, but he’s come a long way because of his drive and perspective.  He is a decorated U.S. Army veteran and he earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in addition to many other medals.


Kacer participated in three *Invictus Games” in 2014, 2016, and 2018 and many Paralympic Warrior athletic events, in track, and field, swimming, and rowing.

*The Invictus Games is an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women, both serving and veterans. The Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect of all those who serve their country. The Invictus Games the Invictus games currently includes 17 nations, over 550 service members across 33 sports. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex in England (full name Henry Charles Albert David), is a Patron of the Invictus Games Foundation.

Kacer participated in the *Warrior Games in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (which preceded Invictus Games).

*Warrior Games is a Paralympic style competition for injured, wounded & ill veterans where they compete against each branch, Army vs. Navy vs. Air Force vs. Marines. Warrior Games travels the US rotating home field advantage to each service branch. and is hosted and run by U.S. Department of Defense.


Here are Kacer’s words:

I am responding because too many Monday morning quarterbacks who never served, understand how war works, or know the affects on so many lives.  Why do they want the killing to continue; for what?

My opinion/feelings on what has happened in Afghanistan this past week?  This was long overdue.  Very few people understand how and what goes on in a country at war (to include me 11 years removed.)  Most don’t understand truces and cease fires with “enemies”/”allies.”  We only are privy to the biased news source we follow.

Do I agree with the decision?  Yes, I believe it is long overdue to pull out.  We had a mission, we accomplished that.  How many need to die so those who never will never go fight, can claim their part-time patriotism? 

How do I think this will affect American soldiers? There will be a vast reactions from relief to distaste to anger, just like in Iraq.  It’s too early to say whether this was the right time or not, but one thing is for sure, I lost too many friends due to the war, trauma, suicide and lack of understanding mental health doesn’t mean you’re weak. When we left Iraq I thought it was too soon.  Now they are “okay” lol.  Not great but working it out and fighting.  One thing is for sure, there is never a good time to pull out of a war, because it never ends.

Constantly America touts to get mental health straight and yet anytime anyone is open about it they are criticized and shamed.

When will the hate be left behind and alone. We will never be a perfect society because of how we created this nation.  When will we learn we are this way because of how we created this nation.  Stop the party lines, stop the hate, stop the ignorance, and step up to create a healthier country rather than buying into the divide.

Michael Kacer top row, 2nd from right, 2008.

Michael Kacer top right.
President Obama visits Michael Kacer after he suffered injuries.
Michael Kacer participated in Paralympic Triathlons.
Michael Kacer participated in Paralympic track and field events.
Michael Kacer at Invictus Games.
Michael Kacer’s wedding to Jessica Schulman.

Michael Kacer and wife Jessica
after the birth of their daughter last year.