‘Was losing my legs worth it?’ Aussie Paralympian ex-soldier questions his Afghanistan sacrifice amid Taliban takeover
Australian athlete McGrath is set to arrive in Japan this week to defend his Paralympic title - but has admitted that the recent developments in Afghanistan has brought back some unwanted memories of the gruesome injuries he sustained while fighting in the country nine years ago today.
"Was losing my legs worth it?" McGrath questioned, via news.com.au.
"Before last week I would have had no problem saying yes."
McGrath sustained the potentially life-threatening injuries after he was caught in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in the Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan in 2012 while serving for the Australian Army.
The explosion caused McGrath to lose his left leg below the knee and his right leg at the knee, while also suffering a litany of other injuries including a perforated ear drum, shattered bones in his wrist and a large gash in his thigh.
The recent Taliban takeover of the country has alarmed to global community and prompted thousands of people to attempt to flee the region - but for McGrath it also brings up a swathe of quite literally painful memories.
"I was annoyed at first," he elaborated. "And angry. We trained and equipped 300,000 Afghans and it sounds like they just rolled over and handed their weapons to the Taliban. So yes, at first, I wondered whether it was all worth it after the price we paid in money, lives and limbs."
The former Paralympic gold medalist and 10-time world champion, who befriended Prince Harry during his time in the armed services, added that he feels incredible remorse for the thousands of troops who lost their lives during the two-decade military intervention in Afghanistan, as well as the innumerable service men and women who were injured.
"I have been trying to gauge the thoughts of my fellow veterans and it is a mixed bag," he added.
"Some are a little ashamed and angry at the situation. And they have every right to feel like that.
"I thought of the man that exposed himself to the Taliban to tell us where the insurgents had buried IEDs. With insurgents watching on, he walked from his village and to our checkpoint to help us. It was his courage that allowed us to remove a series of IEDs. And I am sure by doing that we saved lives.
"So I am not ashamed. I know what we achieved personally. I saw the terrors of insurgency on the ground. Witnessed first-hand the cruelty of the Taliban. We went there and tried to make it a better place. We had to."Also on rt.com ‘Their lives are in danger’: Founder of Afghanistan women’s team talks of terror and broken US promises as Taliban seize control
McGrath added that despite the massive physical toll her experienced in the country, he has no personal regrets - even when it comes to the explosive device which cost him his legs and forced him to endure nine surgeries in three different countries.
"I could have been a school bus that drove over it if I hadn’t stepped on it," he said.
"So I wouldn‘t change a thing. And that is why I can justify my sacrifice. Regardless of what happens now, I know I made a difference. Still my thoughts are with both the people of Afghanistan and the veterans who may be struggling to deal with what has happened."
McGrath is heavily favored to win gold once more in this year's Paralympic Games which commence on Tuesday in both the K1 (kayak) and the V1 (canoe) events.