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The Role of the American Soldier

The Role of the American Soldier

“Sand Castle,” a film Exploration on World Peace & Betrayal 

By Stevan Crary 

As war-hardened soldiers board their planes for home, the cries of families travel across the air for sympathy as the Taliban close from behind. This first Veteran’s Day out of Afghanistan leaves those soldiers and fellow Americans wondering whether the 20 years of fighting and trillions of dollars of U.S. debt was worth it.  

“Sand Castle,” now streaming on Netflix, is another, what some might say, generic exploration of the American soldier’s involvement in the middle east. However, it reveals how muddy war can be and ponders the question of the worth of war. 

The film follows a reluctant soldier, Matt Ocre (played by Nicholas Hoult), and his platoon tasked with restoring water in a village. The film ends with the water site blown up by extremists, and Ocre ordered home, riddled with guilt that he couldn’t help. It seemed to perfectly capture the essence of the Afghanistan withdrawal and the overall failure of the war. 

In “Sand Castle,” Matt Ocre poses with the guys he was fighting with against Afghan terrorists. Photo by Netflix.

The Pew Research Center reported that “veterans and non-veterans are largely in agreement, regardless of party, in their assessments of the overall success or failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Two-thirds of all veterans say the U.S. mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan; 69% of all non-veterans say the same. Nearly identical shares of Republican and Democratic veterans (67% and 69%, respectively) say the U.S. failed its mission, and they don’t differ significantly from non-veterans in this regard.” [1] There seems to be a consensus of people who share the feelings of failure as depicted at the end of “Sand Castle.” 

Ocre, who started the film indifferent towards the war, found himself invested in his duty at hand at its conclusion. This led to feelings of frustration towards the leaders who sent him home. According to Pew Research Center, these feelings are well-founded among the real veteran community: “Six-in-ten veterans say Biden administration has done a poor job in Afghanistan.” [2] The general frustration from the veteran community is justifiable because they have sacrificed so much to stabilize Afghan territory against terrorists. The abrupt pullout led to the Taliban reclaiming the land these men and women fought so hard to bring security. 

Though there is controversy and deep feelings about the withdrawal, several facts can’t be denied. Our veterans are appreciated for their sacrifice for their country and the people of Afghanistan. A 21-year-old Afghan woman, Shogufa, told ABC News that our troops on the ground made all the difference for her: “Thank you for everything you have done in Afghanistan.” [3] As depicted in “Sand Castle,” it was hard for our troop’s hearts not to go out to these people. Shogufa ended the interview with a lasting wish: “The other thing was to request that they stay with us.” [4] Ocre’s service wasn’t in vain. 

See Also


  1. Parker, K. (2021, September 28). U.S. veterans have mixed views of Afghanistan withdrawal but are highly critical of how Biden handled it. Pew Research Center  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. ABC News Network. (n.d.). ABC News.  
  1. Ibid. 
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