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Empty tables, other signs of patriotism honor service members lost in Afghanistan

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Posted at 10:31 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 10:31:43-04

Watching what has unfolded in Afghanistan over the last few weeks has been tough for some, but there are signs of patriotism and appreciation for service emerging here in the U.S.

Restaurants, police departments, and even the Atlanta Braves have been leaving empty seats and drinks for the 13 U.S. service members recently killed in an attack in Kabul.

“It’s very humbling to see. I just personally I, I hope that the message continues, because there's a lot of work to be done,” said Retired Sgt. Maj. Matt Smith with Hope for the Warriors.

Smith does direct outreach with post 9/11 veterans, their families, and military caregivers to help them meet whatever needs they may have.

“It’s reestablishing that sense of self with the veteran, regardless of what it is, whether it's a financial need, whether it's a mental health need, maybe it's a transition need to assist that veteran with, you know, moving from service into the civilian sector,” said Smith.

Things may be particularly tough for veterans and military families right now with the war in Afghanistan ending.

Smith says a simple thank you and handshake in public is often welcomed.

“Everybody knows it better and everybody has a family member or friend and neighbor. Don't wait to see something,” said Smith. “Reach out and just say, ‘Hey how are you? How's it going you? Want to go out and grab a cup of coffee?’”

As someone who has served in Afghanistan twice, protecting the U.S. embassy and training Afghan security forces, Smith talked about the tree in his background during his interview with The E.W. Scripps Company. It was one of their posts in Afghanistan that provided hope when they all make it back there safely, hope he still has.

“But that entire generation has known nothing but relative freedom and opportunity and a few days ago, an image was posted, a video was posted, it made its rounds across the internet, of young Afghan women protesting the Taliban with signs, the Taliban fighters to their faces in the streets of Kabul and Kandahar. And nothing makes our service more worth it than that singular image,” said Smith.

Again, Hope for the Warriors is one of many credible nonprofits helping military veterans that can use volunteers and support.