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Montana Veterans Voice Support For Afghan Refugees

John Quintrell
Freddy Monares
Montana Public Radio
Vietnam veteran John Quintrell talks to Sen. Steve Daines about the U.S. pulling troops out of Afghanistan. Quintrell was part of a meeting between Sen. Steve Daines and a group of veterans in Missoula, MT August 30, 2021.

As the last United States’ military planes departed Afghanistan Monday, a group of Montana veterans met with Sen. Steve Daines to discuss the end of the nation’s longest war. They all encouraged Montanans to welcome Afghan ally refugees who now, or will soon, call Montana home.

Montana’s Republican U.S. senator privately met with one of the at least three families fleeing Afghanistan and settling in Montana. Steve Daines says they escaped Kabul two weeks ago.

“He was working directly with our special forces for many years. He was a minesweeper. He was out in front protecting our troops on the ground there.”

Daines says if the refugee, his wife and baby had not made it out of Afghanistan, the Taliban would have executed them.

Due to security concerns, the family was neither identified nor appeared at Monday’s roundtable The event held at American Legion Post 27 in Missoula was organized by Daines’ office.

It was meant to serve as a sounding board for Montana vets watching the crisis unfold in Afghanistan. The seven veterans seated around the u-shaped table collectively represented decades of service ranging from Vietnam and Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan. To a person, each expressed anger by what they say was the lack of a coherent exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Despite their frustration, the vets encourage Montanans to embrace vetted Afghan refugees who served alongside American soldiers and Special Forces.

“We owe a minimum of, not only our gratitude, but I think we owe them a chance to establish and have a decent life. We need to just give them a chance,” Helena Vietnam-era veteran John Quintrell said.

Daines also met Monday with representatives of the Missoula-area International Rescue Committee, helping pave the way for Afghan refugees who worked with the U.S. Military.

International Rescue Committee officials say they don’t yet know how many Afghan nationals may eventually wind up in Montana.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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