My dad was one of the first intelligence officers sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. Sy dood sou wêreldnuus in minder as wees 24 ure. Photos of my father and pictures of my mourning mother holding me would be in every newspaper in America.
I grew up alongside the conflict that claimed my dad’s life. In baie maniere, I know more about the war in Afghanistan than I do about him. I know him as an American hero, but my picture of him as a person is stitched together with fragments of stories passed down to me by my family and my dad’s colleagues.
The experience of missing a person you’ve never known is like missing a ghost. I remember looking for him in the crowd when I graduated high school. All I’ve ever wanted to hear is my father telling me that he’s proud.
Thoughts of my dad and Afghanistan occur more often in the fall, between September and November, especially on Nov. 25. Hierdie jaar, my family and I watched in anger as that nation fell to the Taliban.
Scott Spellmeyer and Dave Tyson are retired CIA officers who worked with my dad as members of Alpha Team, the combined forces of paramilitary CIA and DOD special forces. Their mission in 2001 was to ensure that Afghanistan would not be a place where terrorist attacks against the U.S. could originate.
“Mike was solid as a rock,” Scott said. “A total professional. When the chips were down, he was the one you could count on.”
“He was uncompromising in his patriotism and devotion to duty,” Dave told me. “His duty was protecting his country and its people. You could always rely on Mike, especially in difficult times.”
Dave was at the fortress with my dad when he was killed. “I will forever grapple with his death and there are many times still when I catch myself not believing he was killed,” said Dave. “There is a shadow with me always – and it is Mike.”
In Scott’s words, “Losing your dad was a tremendous loss to me personally and to the rest of the team. I think we all, in our own way, resolved to carry on and complete the mission as your dad would have wanted us to.”
They were successful in severely limiting the Taliban and al Qaeda’s capabilities to carry out attacks against our own country, and the nation of Afghanistan was made more secure.
Scott told me, “When we drove into Mazar-i-Sharif, and actually entered the city, it was like a victory parade. It was like we had won WWII. People were very jubilant.”