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Gold Star family, Afghanistan veteran share response to Kabul airport attack

Gold Star family
Posted at 5:41 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 18:41:34-04

OLATHE, Kan. — The deaths of 13 United States service members in Afghanistan is a pain some local families know too well.

Debbie Austin became a Gold Star mother in October 2006 when her son, Shane Austin, was killed in Iraq.

"That's the day that changed my family's life forever," Austin said.

After her son's death, Austin said it took her a few months before reaching out to organizations that support Gold Star families, such as the American Gold Star Mothers.

Austin said she is heartbroken about the deaths of 13 U.S. service members in Afghanistan and knows what their families are going through.

"I was re-living the moment when I had two faces at my door with the words 'we regret to inform you,'" Austin said. "As a Gold Star mother and part of the Gold Star group it is up to us to be there to reach out and hug the families that are starting this journey that will change their life."

Austin said it is far too soon to reach out to those families now.

"The families are in shock, they are probably in disbelief," Austin said. "It's just important for us to pray."

Austin hopes the community can show support by coming together.

"If I dare say it, stay out of the politics, stay out of the finger pointing. Right now, that's not what we need. We need to focus on what we can do to keep our America great," Austin said.

The attack at the Kabul International Airport is also painful for local Afghanistan veteran Emma Toops, who was stationed at the airport from 2012 to 2013.

"I'm really sad because our men have died, but it wasn't just our men, it was Afghanistan civilians," Toops said. "Everyone in the area, civilian and service person, was a victim and that's just tragic and it makes me very upset."

Toops wants the men and women who served in Afghanistan to know they did their job and made a difference.

While Austin hopes the attack will bring people together in unity, she also hopes they won't lose sight of the veterans still here and still in need of support.

"A simple thank you goes so far, that sometimes is all they need," Austin said.