Taliban fighters patrol in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, three days after it fell into their hands. The chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces over the weekend has led to a surge in calls to the Vets Crisis Line in the U.S. (Rahmat Gul / AP)
By Taylor Penley August 19, 2021 at 2:36pm
It’s a sad time for America. It’s a sad time for the Afghan people.
Showing up everywhere are images of the moment that’s making us a shameful spectacle before the world — the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan — which is taking shape all because of a poorly executed policy.
Many are suffering from the United States’ abrupt and untimely pull out of the country: The people — the thousands of Americans still in the country with an uncertain way out, the groups who will be left behind to face Taliban persecution.
And the distraught American veterans at home who feel they fought for a lost cause.
For 20 years, the U.S. maintained its presence in Afghanistan.
Over those same 20 years of war, our men and women made sacrifices — which many of them now openly question. They carry physical scars and a litany of psychological traumas that have worsened for many in light of Kabul’s fall.
The sudden collapse of the Afghan government sent shockwaves through the veteran community this weekend.
We could see it coming as soon as we first saw the images ourselves. We considered what they might mean to the servicemen and servicewomen who dedicated themselves to a cause — albeit, one they may now label as fruitless.
Even before the Afghan capital of Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday, Dr. Sonya Norman, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD consultation program, said veterans are going to be asking hard questions, according to USA Today.
Do you think the veterans were let down by the Biden White House?
“People are looking for meaning,” she was quoted as saying in a VA blog post from Aug. 10.
“What did it mean that I went there, what did it mean that I risked my life, what does it mean that I saw other people lose their life?”
She said closure is essential to managing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — and many veterans of Afghanistan feel they haven’t gotten it.
The USA Today report noted that many veterans who served in Afghanistan wanted the U.S. military involvement to end, but the problem remains how poorly the withdrawal has been executed.
The catastrophe has evidently proven too much for some who served in Afghanistan — judging by the increase in calls to the Veterans Crisis Line since the upsetting development began.
According to WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., the line received a 4 percent call increase on Saturday.
When the Saigon-esque images of Kabul’s fall emerged on Sunday, the number of calls increased by 9 percent from the previous year.
‘You are not alone’
The @DeptVetAffairs sends message to veterans who may be experiencing a range of emotions following the U.S. withdrawal and chaos in Afghanistan.
There’s been a 9% increase in calls to the Vets Crisis Line on Sunday compared to the same time in 2020. @wusa9 pic.twitter.com/KhBGpJaCNL
— Matthew Torres (@News_MTorres) August 17, 2021
In this dark hour, our veterans need the support of their country more than ever.
Some may need to be guided to the resources they need, whether it’s the crisis line (at 1-800-273-8255), vet centers or any number of the VA’s mental health services. (WUSA’s report has an extensive list of resources available for struggling veterans, so that’s a good source to consult for further options).
These men and women need to know they fulfilled their duty, they kept the Taliban at bay for 20 years, they instilled a glimmer of hope in school-aged little girls who finally knew what it meant to have the opportunity to learn as their brothers did.
They brought hope to a place where Islamic militants afforded none.
And they made us proud.
“I just want to say to the veterans: ‘You served honorably, there was a noble cause and it was to bring a moment of peace in centuries of war,’” said veteran David Upham, who has worked with the various nonprofits veteran organizations, according to WUSA’s report.
Afghanistan wasn’t a lost cause.
The Biden administration’s failures say nothing about the courage and tenacity of our men and women who served and currently serve. In fact, the administration owes an apology to those veterans for botching the withdrawal as badly as it has.
You all did your job, and you did it well.
And we thank you.