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2021 Man of the Year: The American Troops

Marines salute the flag-draped coffin of Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, killed in Kabul, Afghanistan / Getty Images
• January 2, 2022 5:00 am

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As the fragile Afghan democracy collapsed amid a bungled evacuation by President Joe Biden, the U.S. military stood its ground, defending freedom until its final moments in the war-torn country—which were marred by a terrorist attack that killed 13 American patriots.

After more than two decades propping up a fledgling democracy in the onetime terrorist haven, the Biden administration gave in to Taliban demands and ordered U.S. forces back to the United States. Within weeks, the Taliban regained control of the country, returning it to jihadi hands almost 20 years to the day after the 9/11 terrorist  attacks.

Poor planning left hundreds of Americans stranded, but the U.S. military stuck it out with no protection to help those left behind find their way home. The Biden administration didn’t make it easy. The U.S.-controlled airbase in Bagram was abandoned and evacuation efforts were moved to Kabul's central airport. There, the Taliban was permitted to control who boarded American flights out of the country, leaving scores of vulnerable Afghans and hundreds of American citizens stranded behind enemy lines.

Still, the images of American heroism in the face of adversity broke through the headlines. American service members were seen on camera lifting Afghan babies and children to safety amid a crushing scrum outside the airport's gates. They provided water to anxious Afghans stuck baking in the desert sun and cared for the country's most vulnerable population. U.S. troops also conducted daring rescue missions throughout Taliban-controlled Kabul to save Americans and Afghan allies, according to the Wall Street Journal.

They gave their lives as leaders in Washington tried to wash their hands of the war. Thirteen American service members—11 Marines, 1 Navy corpsman, and 1 soldier—were killed when an ISIS terrorist penetrated the Taliban's security perimeter and detonated an explosive. They ranged in ages from just 20 years old to 31 years old.

One of those killed, Massachusetts native Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, was memorialized in the Boston Globe: "Her service was not only crucial to evacuating thousands of women and children, but epitomizes what it means to be a Marine: putting herself in danger for the protection of American values so that others might enjoy them," the paper quoted Lt. John Coppola as saying. "She is a hero, and her legacy will never be forgotten."

The Biden administration put our troops in an impossible position, but, as expected, our troops performed exceptionally, showing why the American military is unrivaled across the globe. That is why this year, and every year, the American troops are the Washington Free Beacon‘s Men of the Year.

Published under: Man of the Year