CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The unfolding situation in Afghanistan is hard for many American’s to watch, but that’s especially true for our nation’s veterans.
FOX 46 is honored to have one of those veterans working with us: Photojournalist Brian Christiansen.
You never see Christiansen on TV, but he plays a huge role in bringing you Charlotte’s headlines.
It wasn’t too long ago though, that he was telling a much different story.
“My job was to document air force soldiers working with the Afghan air force officials every day,” he recalled.
Christiansen was a Technical Sergeant in the Air Force, spending 15 of his 21 years of service at the 145th Airlift wing based in Charlotte.
Heading into a war-torn nation isn’t something most people do willingly, but Christiansen begged to go, so he could document U.S troops training the Afghan air force in Kabul.
He spent six months in the country’s capital city based at the Kabul airport.
“I would occasionally teach photography lessons for these guys, so when we left they could continue that and preserve their history,” Christiansen said.
Most veterans have days that are forever etched in their memory; Christiansen’s is April 27th, 2011.
He said, “One of those trusted Afghan pilots working with some of our people, got into a disagreement, left the room, came back into the room with a gun, and shot and killed nine of our people.”
That pilot killed eight U.S Service Members and an American civilian contractor at the NATO military base.
The moments that followed are something Christiansen thinks about often.
“I remember hearing over the radio confirmed nine KIA,” he said, “It was so incredibly silent in that moment. The two guys that were on the radio came out of the office and they both kneeled down right in front of me and started praying.”
Christiansen captured that moment with his camera. It’s a photo only a few have seen.
He said, “That was the one time I questioned myself about – why am I here?”
Christiansen captured memorials for his killed comrades right there in Kabul, but when he returned to the U.S, he was responsible for photographing other funerals as well.
“I have had people who reach out afterward and say ‘thank you for being there.’ That’s what made it worth going back and helping with those,” Christiansen said.
Christiansen feels a lot of different emotions about what’s going on now in Afghanistan and knows other veterans feel the same way.
“Mad, sad, betrayed, angry,” he said.
As evacuation efforts for Americans and Allies continue, Christiansen asks that we all just do one thing.
He said, “Right now, don’t get wrapped up in the politics of all this, just be thinking about those people, pray for those people: the ones who understand what freedom truly is and they are trying to escape that country, so they can so they can have freedom.”
Christiansen retired from the military in August 2014.