Nefariant Guitarist Dustin Tooker Reflects on Serving in Afghanistan
By Nefariant guitarist Dustin Tooker
With the current situation in Afghanistan, I have been having a lot of conversations with friends and family. People have been reaching out to me to see if I need to talk, and I think seeking a non-political perspective on things. To help process this for all of us, I’d like to give my feelings on it.
During my time on the ground in Afghanistan I experienced a different world then anything any civilian can relate to, it’s like going to another planet. The air smells different, for some reason the ground below your feet feels different. In every way you know you’re not at home. I was there as a US ARMY Sniper. My job was to protect and over watch our Soldiers as well as the Afghan Soldiers that we were assisting on a mission to maintain control of their country.
Anyone that has been on a patrol with the ANA (Afghan National Army) knew there was no way, no matter how well equipped, that they could handle protecting themselves from the Taliban. It is no surprise that the Taliban has control again.
What makes the current events hard to deal with is that I used all the good things we did over there for the Afghan people to mentally balance all the dark things that had to be done. Whether you were in country or not, it’s likely that you also question what appears to now be wasted time and lives.
All the work that has been done, is gone. It’s worse now because those people got to see what life could be like not under the Taliban. For them it probably would be better if they never had that taste. Now they really know and feel how evil the Taliban is, and they are truly afraid for today and future generations.
How do you win a war against belief? I don’t think you can. The Democracy that works for us, may not work for all cultures. We need to let them work it out on their own. I hope that because they saw what life could be like in Afghanistan that they will fight to take back what’s theirs and live life the way they want. We must let the new generation of Afghan people that got to live Taliban free shape their own future.
As all this unfolds and we are fed a curated feed via the media and social accounts, we as vets need to remember that we went above and beyond what was asked of us. We did our jobs and will do it again, and again, and again. Remembering that is key. Remember that, and why we would do it again.
We all know what needs to be done now. Let’s move on from the blame, get our people out of there while they are still alive, and learn from this.
As a musician I draw from my past and use it as inspiration for my art. These recent events have changed how those experiences and memories sit in my soul. I know it will show in the music I create and if you listen close, I think others will be able to tell I just got a little darker. It’s likely you’ve gotten a bit darker as well. Music is my therapy and there are plenty of people here who can help you find yours.
If any military personnel active or not need to talk to someone, reach out to the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or Text to 838255.
(SGT) Dustin Tooker RET
Thanks to Dustin Tooker for his service and for this thoughtful and insightful piece. Tooker is the guitarist for the New York City metal band Nefariant. You can follow Nefariant here and check out the band's video for "Life on Fire" below.