Retired Marine Sergeant Reflects on Afghanistan War and Life Purpose

By Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Reporter
June 17, 2021 Updated: June 22, 2021

SAN DIEGO—From a passionate young Marine who was ready to die for his country, to a survivor of the Afghanistan War, retired U.S. Marine Sergeant Povas Miknaitis reflects on his experiences and his outlook on life.

Having two older brothers who served in the Marine Corps and following the events of 9/11, Miknaitis made the decision to serve in the military at the age of 18.

“I just felt somebody’s going to die for our country. I wanted it to be me because I cared so much about others in general, like other people, other Americans. I didn’t want them to have to experience any more bloodshed, at least on the American territory,” Miknaitis said.

He served as a scout sniper during a deployment to Iraq in 2008 and in Afghanistan in 2009. During a nighttime scouting mission in Nowzad, Afghanistan, eight members of his platoon were heavily injured by an explosive booby trap wired to a house door.

Miknaitis suffered injuries to his head. Some teammates lost their legs or other body parts. Following the explosion, all Miknaitis could think of was helping his fellow soldiers, making sure they were alive and bandaged as they waited for help to arrive.

“In the moment, it’s not about you. The last thing I was thinking about was myself. I didn’t care about myself. I was wanting to make sure they were going to survive,” he said.

The injured platoon had to wait two hours for a response force to arrive in trucks. U.S. Air Force personnel couldn’t drop into the city due to the heat and large number of hidden explosives.

After undergoing surgery at Camp Leatherneck, Miknaitis was eventually flown to Germany for facial reconstruction.

Seeing teammates having lost their lives or wounded during missions made him think more deeply about the meaning and purpose of life.

“It’s not all about you. It’s about others in your life and the happiness that you bring to them,” he said. “I was grateful to serve our country. I’m grateful that I’m alive.”

Miknaitis expressed a belief that there is a reason for everything. There are higher powers and morals that guide people, he said.

“If we don’t believe in something greater than ourselves, then we just deteriorate into animals, and just savagery. I’m here to help people get to where they need to be, to gain their happiness,” he said.

Miknaitis has, with help from Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, transitioned into civilian life. He now works at City National Bank as an associate relationship manager in aerospace and defense finance.

He continues to volunteer at Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, a nonprofit based in San Diego and dedicated to helping military veterans.

Just as people helped him when he first arrived, he’s now helping countless veterans who walk through the foundation’s gates.

“There’s some reason why we’re here, and there’s some reason why we need to be good people, and we need to help other people,” he said.

Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Reporter