As thousands of U.S. military troops prepare to withdraw from their posts in Afghanistan over the next year, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is currently there visiting with deployed members of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.


As thousands of U.S. military troops prepare to withdraw from their posts in Afghanistan over the next year, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is currently there visiting with deployed members of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.

His trip is part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Governors Delegation Program, which provides state governors an opportunity to visit their deployed service members and is intended to inspire greater appreciation for service in the nation.

Markell is joined by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Before arriving in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, they spent the day Tuesday in Kuwait visiting U.S. troops deployed to support the drawdown of U.S. military operations in Iraq.

“It’s been a very action-packed couple of days,” Markell said in a telephone conference with members of the media Wednesday. “I’d say the take away for me is meeting all of these service members. To see the level of professionalism and patriotism they bring to their responsibilities is absolutely inspiring.”

Before leaving for Afghanistan Monday evening, both governors met with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon and visited wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Markell toured Walter Reed’s amputee center, where he said he met with three Delawareans who were being treated for various wounds.

“I had the chance to talk with a service member from Sussex County who had suffered an arm injury and who has undergone 31 surgeries already,” he said.

Markell, who is making his first trip to Afghanistan and Kuwait, said a scene that will remain with him forever is that of the 41-bed hospital at Bagram Air Base.

“There was a soldier there who just a few hours earlier lost both of his legs,” Markell said. “He was on his way to Germany and from there he would go to Walter Reed. To see the front end of things in Afghanistan and to see what I saw at Walter Reed is something I’ll never forget.”

Markell said it can often take five to eight days after the time of the soldier’s injury for them get to Walter Reed. He commended the medical staff at both hospitals for their professionalism.

The level of sophistication and technology and compassion these physical therapists, occupational therapists, doctors and support personnel have is just amazing,” he said.

Markell said to witness the everyday conditions that the U.S. military faces just furthers his appreciation for the men and women who serve the country.

“There’s not really any social life. They work everyday and I mean every day,” he said. “They may have time to use the gym, but other than that they’re dedicated to doing their job to best of their ability.”

Markell said much of his day Thursday will be spent with members of the Delaware National Guard.

This is a trip the governor said he has been waiting for since taking office in 2008.

“Many of my colleagues have gone,” he said. “I was honored to accept the invitation. The main reason I wanted to take this trip was to thank all of our service members.”

In June, President Barack Obama announced his plans to remove 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and another 23,000 by next summer.

Markell said he wants to see troops come home as quickly and safely as possible, but he understands that takes time.

“After being in Kuwait, where much of the work has turned to aiding with the drawdown in Iraq, the amount of effort it takes to do that drawdown is amazing,” he said. “I am like most Americans in that the safety of the troops is priority, but first they have a job to do, and they’re doing it very well.”