Serving Those Who Serve Serving Those Who Serve

FOX31 once traveled to Afghanistan with Air Force crew from Colorado. Now they’re worried about that country’s future

Serving Those Who Serve

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) – A group of Colorado U.S. Air Force reservists are watching the events surrounding the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan closely.

They spent time in Afghanistan, going on dangerous missions called “bandage runs.” And FOX31’s Jeremy Hubbard went there with them in 2013 to see them work in the war zone first-hand. Their story was featured in the FOX31 news special “Assignment Afghanistan.”

The reservists were part of the 34th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

‘I’m scared for everyone there’

In their day jobs, they worked as emergency room nurses and doctors back home in Colorado. But in Afghanistan, they transformed the belly of a cargo plane into an emergency room, and treated wounded soldiers picked up from forward operating bases, or FOBs, throughout Afghanistan.

“When anyone ever asks me, I always describe it as something similar to Colorado,” said Mauri Rapuzzi, a former Air Force officer who served as FOX31’s media escort during the journey to Afghanistan.

“It’s just really sad. I’m scared for everyone there, and I met so many really great people who were locals. And it’s pretty terrifying to think about what could come, and the fact that it’s all unknown,” she added.

Supporters of the Taliban carry the Taliban’s signature white flags in the Afghan-Pakistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. The Taliban are pressing on with their surge in Afghanistan, saying Wednesday that they seized Spin Boldaka, a strategic border crossing with Pakistan, the latest in a series of key border post to come under their control in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Tariq Achkzai)

Despite the rapid-fire fall of Afghanistan, and the tumult that’s unfolded there in recent days at the hands of the Taliban, Rapuzzi knows America’s 20-year mission in that country was worth it.

“I truly believe in what I did and what my part was. And I have friends and peers who similarly are very strong in the beliefs and experiences that they had. I think every interaction had the opportunity to impact someone’s life, whether it was good or bad,” Rapuzzi said.

Rapuzzi says she’s worried about the mental health of veterans who fought in Afghanistan, especially given what’s unfolded in recent days. She encourages veterans and their loved ones to reach out to USA Cares, a non-profit offering financial support for veterans to prevent suicide.

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