Kylie Willis’ family is one of over 2,000 families in the U.S. who have lost a loved one who served in the war in Afghanistan.
Now reeling from the rapid collapse of the Afghan government 20 years after the U.S. first invaded the country, the re-establishment of the Taliban has caused Willis to ask, “Why?”
“Why did I send my loved one to die for this country if things just went back to the same?” she told ABC News.
That question haunts many of the thousands of Afghanistan gold star families and veterans advocates worry the takeover may be triggering a mental health crisis among U.S. veterans.
Willis was 15 years old when she lost her father, who was killed in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Kirk Owens. He was driving on a notoriously dangerous road in 2011 when he was struck and killed by an improvised explosive device along with two other members of his unit in the Paktia province, an area that had seen increasing violence and fighting.
“He didn’t ask anybody to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself,” Willis said. “He took the front seat and the front car, because he knew it was the most dangerous. They’re going down a dangerous path, and he took that spot so somebody else didn’t have to.”