VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The messy end to the war in Afghanistan is difficult for all Americans, but it's especially tough for Gold Star families who lost a son or daughter in combat there.
2,248 U.S. military troops died in the nearly 20 year Operation Enduring Freedom.
For their mothers and fathers, these past few days have been hard, watching helplessly as the American military withdrew and the Taliban swiftly seized control of the entire country.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tried to offer them words of comfort.
"Especially now, we mourn those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan," he said in a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday.
Austin continued: "Let me say this to their families and loved ones. Our hearts are with you."
It's been said that the first casualty when war comes is truth. Virginia Beach resident Mark Stets believes it.
He and his wife Nancy lost their soldier son, 39-year-old Army Staff Sergeant Mark, Jr., in Pakistan, on February 3, 2010.
The senior Stets is thoroughly unimpressed with how the Biden Administration and the Pentagon have managed the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.
"My son did not die for the crap that you people are doing in D.C.," he said. "I look at Washington, D.C. and go, who's in charge? The President walks out, says a few words and then turns his back and walks out. No questions answered."
Stets says Mark, Jr. would be disappointed in how things have played out over the last week, and puzzled by the decisions that have been made.
"I think he'd be sad," he said. "I think he'd be looking at it as, what is it they did not accomplish? I mean, where was the failure in Afghanistan?"
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District) is calling the war's final chapter, a "botched withdrawal" and "a debacle."
Wittman on Friday announced legislation to establish the "National Commission on the United States' Involvement in Afghanistan."
This panel would conduct a full review and report on America's 20-year mission, from the initial military invasion in 2001 to the ongoing withdrawal.