‘I don’t want her death to be in vain.’ Loved ones hope Afghanistan troop withdrawal is right move

ATLANTA — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday afternoon that the U.S. will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan beginning May 1.

It would mean the end to a 20-year war that began in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In all, more than 2,400 soldiers have been killed in the war-torn country — many of them from Georgia.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke to the father of a local veteran who died in the line of duty.

“I don’t want her death to be in vain,” father Michael Ruiz said about his daughter Kcey Ruiz.

Before Airman 1st Class Kcey Ruiz became a fallen American hero, she was a Dutchtown High School graduate.

“Her mother and myself were both Marines. You know, she embraced that,” Michael Ruiz said.

Kcey Ruiz was killed in a 2015 helicopter crash in Afghanistan, along with five others.

Now, her father is worried about the war coming to an end.

“There’s the fear that, you know, they’re withdrawn, and it goes right back to where it was in 2001. There is that. That would, you know, that would be devastating for me,” Michael Ruiz told Johnson.

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President Biden said he will withdraw the remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 but said the U.S. will respond if troops are attacked.

“The whole reason why the United States is in Afghanistan in the first place is because of al Qaeda,” said Justin Conrad, professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia.

He said al-Qaeda is weaker than it was 20 years ago, and the war has evolved into an effort to help stabilize the government.

“I think it’s a lower probability that we would see a serious terrorist threat in the new near future,” Conrad said.

“So what does victory looked like? I don’t know,” said retired Army Sgt. Major Sarita Dyer.

In 2013, Dyer taught and trained Afghan women on how to vote amid terrorist attacks at voting sites. Now she works with the Veterans Affairs Advisory Board.

“We would go in there and just teach them personal hygiene and, and they want to learn how to be strong like us American women,” Dyer said.

She said she lost friends to combat and suicide but said the Afghanistan people still need protection from remaining Taliban forces.

“The mission’s not complete. Because if we just pull out, that means some of their lives were lost in vain,” Dyer said.

Troops will return in September, but local veterans’ groups like the Warrior Alliance are advocating for them now.

Retired Staff Sgt. Jarrad Turner told Johnson that employment and mental health resources will be critical.

“Those men and women — the one thing that they deserve is our support and our true support. And when I say true support, it needs to be in a timely manner,” Turner said.

For Kcey Ruiz, her memory lives on in a scholarship fund that helped eight students go to college.

“She was very giving. So you know, the scholarship was important,” Michael Ruiz said.

He told Johnson that he’s conflicted about ending the war, but one thing gives him hope.

“There’s the possibility that no other family will have to go through that grief, and everybody will come home safe,” Michael Ruiz said.