A veteran’s perspective on Afghanistan’s turmoil

Freshman English major Chris Matthews highlights what Biola students can do to help.

Hannah Dilanchyan, Opinions Editor

Staff Sgt. Chris Matthews grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. After he graduated Cleveland Heights High School in 2004, he aspired to enlist in the Marine Corps. However, still alarmed after 9/11, his mother asked him to wait one year to be sure of his decision. He complied, but knew his mind would not change. In March 2006, Matthews joined the Marines, beginning a 13-year journey.

“As a whole, it was a great experience. It has me where I am today,” Matthews said.

He first deployed to Iraq, then landed in Afghanistan a few years later. He was there for eight months in 2011. Matthews shared his story on how God led him to Biola University, his experience in Afghanistan and what Biolans can do to help.

Why did you choose Biola University?

Chris Matthews: After serving, I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in 2016. In 2019, I medically retired after 13 years of service. I began school full-time at Saddleback College until the pandemic hit. During the pandemic, I realized I was passionate about writing. Everyone at my church spoke so highly of Biola and without having even been to the campus and knowing nothing about it, I applied and was accepted. It was definitely a God-driven move on my heart. I plan on achieving my bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in writing and would like to pursue a master’s degree, maybe at Biola!

What would you like to share with Biola students about your experience in Afghanistan?

Chris Matthews: It was my third or fourth time overseas. When I landed, I felt mentally prepared, even though it was still unknown. We had heavy engagements with the enemy much of the time so it was an interesting experience. I worked on a very small unit and bonded with the guys I was with. We would go on foot patrols with 12 of our own guys and the rest was supplied by Afghan military forces. Oftentimes, they would outnumber us and we would fight side by side. 

Chris Matthews: One of the big news headlines recently spoke somewhat negatively about the Afghan people and their lack of willingness to fight. That is an absolute lie. I have fought side by side with these men who put their lives, their families’ lives, on the line because they fought alongside American forces. It is extremely admirable. There has been fighting in Afghanistan since long before America was even a blip in someone’s eye. Their willingness to fight for themselves, their freedom, their rights and beliefs is extremely high. More than anything, I want to uplift those Afghan people who will still fight against the Taliban even though we’re gone. They should be held in high regard. 

Chris Matthews: Afghanistan is quite large. When they find fighters or translators, they move them across the country—away from their families. They are uprooted from their homes so they can help fight the Taliban. 

What are your thoughts on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the U.S. leaving? 

Chris Matthews: It’s sad. We need to pray and hand it over to the Lord. Pray for the women and children first. We have been in Afghanistan for 20 years, so it is possible many of the young adults were born while there was an Afghan-democratic government which means the women were allowed to go to school. There are children who do not know what the reign of the Taliban is like. The level of great change… we can all feel that. Imagine going to school for 16 years and now you can’t, or you could die. 

Chris Matthews: Beyond that, it was a poorly executed plan. A majority of Amerians will agree that war is bad, especially a continual war. But you don’t just drop everything and leave. That’s frustrating. We left billions of dollars worth of equipment there. We just armed the enemy with how much we left behind—small arms, aircraft, armored personnel carriers—we have never done that before.

Chris Matthews: I had friends who were at the Kabul airport those last few days. They were there when the [improvised explosive device] went off. One of the guys lost his wife there. All that happened right before my first week at Biola. Even though I have been retired now for nearly three years, it made school feel different for me. My attendance at Biola has more of a weight to it. I am no longer serving in that way, but people still are. I feel like I need to lift them up by doing my best at the things I have been given because of my service and their continued service for our country. 

How are veterans affected by current events? 

Chris Matthews: It is extremely difficult. A common theme is to reach out to those who have been there. It is also my duty to connect with others. It is important to reach out to each other and say “hey man, I’m here if you need anything.” You do not need to offer solutions, but offer the space for them to share their hearts. Like it says in James, be slow to speak and quick to listen. 

In what ways can Christians come alongside those in Afghanistan, veterans, and those still serving during this time?


Chris Matthews: First and foremost, through prayer. Pray for those who are hurting, in pain and for ourselves to be understanding with the unknown. Secondly, truth— that Christ crucified is what we need. That is what we pray for everyone in the world. Then, revival. How awesome would it be to have a revival of Christianity for the people in Afghanistan? It has happened before and God can do miraculous things. Students should stay away from the political back and forth because we are dealing with pain. Focus on prayer, truth and revival. 

Chris Matthews: If anyone has a question, I am more than willing to answer them! We need more people who are willing to be open about our experience. I will be your sounding board.

 

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