Gold Star Families With Nebraska Ties Angry About Abrupt Afghanistan Withdrawal

Aug. 18, 2021, 1:36 p.m. ·

Army helicopter pilot Christopher Allgaier
Army helicopter pilot Christopher Allgaier was killed in 2007 when his aircraft was shot down by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. (Photo courtesy of Robert Allgaier)

Listen To This Story

As the situation in Afghanistan continues to unfold, two Gold Star Families with Nebraska connections say the exit from the country could have been handled a lot better.

Robert Allgaier’s brother Christopher was killed while piloting an Army helicopter that was shot down by the Taliban in the dangerous Helmand Province in 2007. They both grew-up in Omaha and he said what has unfolded over the past several weeks in Afghanistan is hard to watch.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster,” Allgaier said. “It’s a disaster on a geopolitical level, it’s a disaster on a strategic level and it’s a disaster on a humanitarian level.”

Christopher Allgaier’s helicopter was brought down by a U.S. made Stinger missile that was left behind from an earlier conflict and Robert Allgaier is worried history could repeat itself with U.S. weapons left behind from the most recent war. He wonders if his brother’s death was for nothing.

“It’s incredibly painful to think about my brother losing his life in that country and then 14 years later, watching us pull away and is Afghanistan any better, is it any better today than it was before?” Allgaier asked.

Army Captain Robert Yllescas died after he was wounded during a Taliban attack at a remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2008. His story was memorialized in a film, The Outpost, last year. His mother, Barbara Yllescas Vorthmann is the president of the Gold Star Mothers of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.

“At first, I thought that my child died for nothing, but I guess a couple of military friends of mine reminded me that, no, at least the people had 20 years that were halfway good,” Vorthmann said.

But she thinks the exit from Afghanistan was botched.

“We couldn’t stay there the rest of our lives, but couldn’t we have exited in a more professional and powerful manner than just running with our tails between our legs?” Vorthmann asked.

Both Gold Star families believe their loved ones were heroes who bravely served their country, regardless of the outcome.