19 Gut-Wrenching Photos of US Service Members Helping Afghan Refugees

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 A Marine assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) calms down an infant.
A Marine assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) calms down an infant at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 28. U.S. service members are assisting the Department of State with a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Davis Harris)

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A year after U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan concluding two decades of operations, scenes of the final few days of a chaotic evacuation have left an indelible imprint shaping many Americans' memory of the conflict.

As the U.S. military assisted more than 80,000 people evacuating from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Pentagon photographers captured both heartwarming and gut-wrenching images of troops offering a helping hand to Afghan women, men, infants, children and elderly.

Related: 'They Will Never Be Forgotten': Tributes Pour in for Troops Killed in Kabul Airport Bombing One Year Ago

Firefights broke out around the airport and a stampede near its gates killed at least seven. Several Afghans plunged to their deaths after clinging to a U.S. C-17 Globemaster III during takeoff.

And in the final days of the evacuation, 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 civilians were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his weapon amid a crowd at one of the gates at the airport where thousands had gathered hoping for a chance at escape.

These photos, published to military Facebook pages, Defense.gov or its online media repository, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS), show Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers offering care and compassion to evacuees.

UK coalition forces, Turkish coalition forces, and U.S. Marines assist a child.
UK coalition forces, Turkish coalition forces, and U.S. Marines assist a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20. (U.S. Marine CorpS/Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

 

A U.S. Marine Corps Marine with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command plays with children at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A U.S. Marine Corps Marine with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command plays with children at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

U.S. military service members comfort infants at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. military service members comfort infants at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)
U.S. military service members comfort infants at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. military service members comfort infants at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sgt. Nicole Gee, on left, was among the 13 U.S. service members killed in an Aug. 26 suicide bombing. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Editor's note: The above features Sgt. Nicole Gee on the left, who was among the 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing Aug. 26 just days after this photo was taken. You can read more here about Gee and the 12 other troops killed in that attack.

An Afghan child sleeps on the cargo floor of a U.S. Air Force C-17
An Afghan child sleeps on the cargo floor of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, kept warm by the uniform of the C-17 loadmaster, during an evacuation flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

 

U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely transported 823 Afghan citizens
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely transported 823 Afghan citizens from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Aug. 15, 2021. (U.S. Air Force)
Marines with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command guide evacuees on to a United States Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
Marines with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command guide evacuees on to a United States Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)

 

U.S. Marine Corps Marines and United States Air Force airmen lead Afghan citizens.
U.S. Marine Corps Marines and United States Air Force airmen lead Afghan citizens aboard a C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

U.S. Army soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division escort a young family to the terminal for check-in at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. Army soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division escort a young family to the terminal for check-in at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

U.S. Marine Corps Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and U.S. Navy Corpsmen with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command provide fresh water to children at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. Marine Corps Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and U.S. Navy Corpsmen with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command provide fresh water to children at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

U.S. military service members comfort infants at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. military service members comfort infants at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

A Marine fists bumps a child evacuee.
A Marine fists bumps a child evacuee during a military drawdown at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2021. U.S. service members are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Nicholas Guevara)

 

Afghan evacuees disembark a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.
Afghan evacuees disembark a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Young)

 

A U.S. Navy Sailor assists an Afghan evacuee.
A U.S. Navy Sailor assists an Afghan evacuee aboard Naval Air Station Sigonella, Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Young)

 

A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) comforts an infant.
A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) comforts an infant while they wait for the mother during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Nicholas Guevara)

 

Senior Airman Romero assists an Afghan evacuee.
Senior Airman Romero assists an Afghan evacuee aboard Naval Air Station Sigonella, Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Young)

 

Naval Air Station Sigonella Command Master Chief Anna Wood assists evacuees.
Naval Air Station Sigonella Command Master Chief Anna Wood assists evacuees disembarking a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Young

 

A family of Afghan evacuees receive food and masks.
A family of Afghan evacuees receive food and masks at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Young)

 

U.S. Marine Corps Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and U.S. Navy Corpsmen with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command provide fresh water to children at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. Marine Corps Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and U.S. Navy Corpsmen with Special Purpose MAGTF - Crisis Response - Central Command provide fresh water to children at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

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