Waterbury Army veteran and Afghan native react to the end of the war in Afghanistan

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury is a city that takes great pride in saluting its service members who put on the uniform and fight for our country. It is also a melting pot of people from all over the world.

That combination is why this historic day hits home there — the official end to the United States’ longest war. After 20 years, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete.

Joey Naseri was born in Afghanistan. He fled there with his grandmother in the early ’90s and made it to America.

“When I got off the plane at JFK, I thought I was in paradise,” he said.

He has grown up to own his own business in Waterbury — an eatery called NYC Express Gyros. He says it’s something he could not aspire to under Taliban rule back home. He’s appreciative of U.S. forces protecting his homeland the last 20 years, largely because some of his loved ones are still there.

“I would like to thank each and every one of the American forces,” Naseri said. “In the last 20 years, you guys have done a great job.”

But on this historic day, it’s because of the job they did that Naseri now has concerns for his family still there. He says some of his relatives worked as interpreters for U.S. forces but were left behind. They couldn’t get a seat on the planes leaving Afghanistan. Now he fears for their safety with the Taliban moving in.

“Have fear of either being blown up by a suicide bomb or dying of hunger,” he said. “It’s very, very hard.”

As the last of the American forces leave, Naseri says he feels “empty.”

An Army veteran from Waterbury using different words to capture his feelings on this day:

“I’ve got mixed feelings about it because the fact is — not everybody is out,” said Operation Desert Storm Army veteran Ronnie Cardoza. “Our motto [has] always been don’t leave no one behind.”

Both men have concerns about what the future holds in Afghanistan. They don’t like seeing Taliban members celebrating in Kabul.

“It’s sad,” Naseri said.

“Angry because like I said, I already know what’s going to happen,” Cardoza said. “They’re going to start it up again.”

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