Utah Soldier Wounded In Afghanistan Speaks Out About U.S. Withdrawal

Aug 16, 2021, 8:04 PM | Updated: 8:37 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Several thousand Utah soldiers fought in America’s longest war in Afghanistan. Among them, a special forces sergeant who was blinded in one eye by shrapnel.

Sgt. Layne Morris was the first Utahn seriously injured in the war on terrorism.

In 2001, he deployed with other members of the Utah National Guard as part of the 19th Special Forces.

He watched Monday’s developments with keen interest.

“It’s been 20 years, but there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about Afghanistan,” he said.

Morris said he keeps up with the news in Afghanistan because of the mission he served there.

“It’s not something that you ever really get over,” he said.

His team was hunting Al Qaeda fighters, which was the main objective at that time.

“We fought the Taliban to remove them from power so that we could pursue Al-Qaeda,” Morris said.

On July 27, 2002, they had a group of Al-Qaeda recruits cornered in a fire fight.

“They threw a bunch of hand grenades right off the bat,” Morris saidEventually, they got me with a hand grenade — a whole bunch of pieces of shrapnel hit me in the face.”

He was blinded in his right eye, while Sgt. Christopher Speer of North Carolina and two Afghan allies were killed.

Morris returned to a hero’s welcome 19 years ago this month.

After 20 years, was his sacrifice and those of other American troops worth it?

“As a soldier, nobody asks my opinion,” he said. 

He fought the enemies he was ordered to fight. 

“It was worth it to me. I don’t feel like my sacrifice is in vain or a waste,” he said.

Morris said he doesn’t look at it in those terms.

“I went and did what my country asked me to do,” he said“It was an honor and I would do it again. I would go tomorrow if we need to go back there.”

That was his job.

“It was absolutely worth it. We accomplished the main mission, which was to get Al-Qaeda out of there,” he said.

As for the collapse of the Afghan government that is playing out, Morris rejects the idea that the U.S. failed in its mission to help the Afghan people govern themselves.

“We set those guys up,” he said. “At some point — the average guy, the farmer, the guy in the street, the guy running the shop — is going to have to say, ‘This is what I want for my country,’” he said.

He believes more Afghans need to be be willing to stand up for their freedom.

That will to fight, to ensure that freedom survives there,” he said. “Freedom is always going to have to be fought for, always.”

Morris said he’s not so sure the Afghan people would develop that will in the next 10 years or 20 years. 

He said the pace and manner of the military withdrawal are definitely up for criticism. 

As for getting out of Afghanistan altogether, he said, the time has come.

“At some point, what else do we need to sacrifice to ensure that Afghanistan is a free and thriving country?” he asked. “Twenty years is a long time.

Morris still works for West Valley City, where he has worked for 26 years. He is the Director of the Community Preservation Department.

While he thinks about Afghanistan every day, he said, he doesn’t doesn’t dwell on it. In most respects, he’s moved on.

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Utah Soldier Wounded In Afghanistan Speaks Out About U.S. Withdrawal