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Afghanistan C-17 Crew Shares Story Behind Viral Evacuation Photos: 'Every Life Matters'

·2-min read

Members of the C-17 flight crew that went viral while helping evacuate people from Afghanistan in August are opening about the mission for the first time.

In an interview for NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt on Friday, members of the crew offered insight into the chaos that unfolded during the withdrawal after the Taliban took control of the county.

On Aug. 15, the crew took more than 800 people onto the C-17 — which typically carries around 350 individuals — as those looking to escape Afghanistan flooded the tarmac. An image of the flight subsequently went viral.

RELATED: Scenes from the Startling Fall of Afghanistan

U.S. Air Force Captain Mark Lawson told NBC Nightly News that the crew "saw an opportunity to save lives" that day and took it.

"Every life matters, right?" Lt. Col. Eric Kut agreed. "So we couldn't sit there and say, 'How do we determine where's the cut-off line?' We have to figure out how much we can fit."

HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 22: This handout image shows A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary unit (MEU) passes out water to evacuees during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 22. U.S. service members are assisting the Department of State with a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in Afghanistan.
HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 22: This handout image shows A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary unit (MEU) passes out water to evacuees during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 22. U.S. service members are assisting the Department of State with a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Isaiah Campbell / U.S. Marine Corps via Getty

Being a father, Kut added, "without a doubt" played into his decision to try and save as many people as possible.

RELATED: More Than 600 People Packed Into Air Force Plane to Flee Afghanistan: 'The Crew Made the Decision to Go'

Upon taking off, Lawson said a "general sense of calmness" swept across those in the cargo hold. "You saw small children, they started to lay down and relax and even fall asleep," he told NBC Nightly News.

Lawson even snapped a photo of a child sleeping aboard the plane while nestled under the jacket of Airman First Class Nicholas Baron. The image has since also gone viral.

RELATED: A Dad-to-Be, a 'Brave Young Man' and 'the Most Patriotic Kid': The 13 Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

Baron said it gave him pride "to give all those people another chance at life and provide them with freedom and hope."

By August 25, the U.S. reported it had evacuated or helped evacuate about 82,300 people from Afghanistan since the fall of the country's government.

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