By Andy Sevilla
At one point everything seems all right, and in the blink of an eye chaos erupts and your world changes in an instant.
That’s how Arturo Ybarra describes some of his time during the Afghanistan war. He served there in 2007, 2011, 2012 and in 2013, before separating from the Air Force last November after almost ten years of service.
Now, Ybarra returned to Hays High School as a guest speaker during the Veterans Day celebration at his alma mater.
It had been only a few months since he graduated from Hays High School when terrorists attacked America in 2001 and killed close to 3,000 people in four attacks on U.S. soil.
It would take less than a month for then-President George W. Bush to announce that American troops were on the offensive in Afghanistan.
It was in that “war on terror,” as Bush called it, that Ybarra would later serve.
“This is the longest time that we’ve been in a constant war – for over 13 years,” Ybarra said. “I’ve seen many friends pay the ultimate sacrifice, and also that have come back home and have dealt with issues.”
Ybarra said he was asked to come and share his story with Hays High students on Veterans Day.
“It meant a great deal,” he said. “… Also to just kind of give back and impart some knowledge on some high school students that hopefully they can take, at least one of those items that I talked about, and put it forth and make somewhat of a change in their lives.”
“The main thing I wanted them to take away was that things can change in an instant,” he said. “… And when you go back, you can sit there and dwell on the facts and just get angry and kind of block everything else out.”
Or you can talk about what happened, talk about the lessons learned, and move forward, he added.