The United States military’s long tenure in Afghanistan has finally come to an end. The mission may be over, but its legacy remains, especially for Veterans who were stationed in Afghanistan any time during the nearly two decades of conflict. Now that the US military has finally been ordered home, though, many of these same Vets who sacrificed so much in service to their country are more than a little disheartened.
Veterans watching all their hard work get erased in mere days as the Taliban takes over the country, yet again, are upset. In fact, hearing news that the US is pulling out of Afghanistan and that the oppressive regime they were opposing has once more risen to prominence in the resultant power vacuum can be traumatic. Veterans already suffering from PTSD could easily face renewed or aggravated symptoms, even if they’re already in treatment.
No Avoiding the Issue – Afghanistan Veterans are Struggling
The fact that the long conflict in Afghanistan is over is simply unavoidable. Likewise, the feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness many Veterans feel after seeing images of the US withdrawal are just as unavoidable. So many of these images are already heartbreaking and upsetting to civilians who view them; for Veterans of the Afghanistan conflict, these are often much worse.
The Veterans of our armed forces have always needed our support. Now, more than ever, they need to know that they are not alone, even if they feel that all their sacrifices have been in vain. With the military facing already highly concerning increases in suicide rates – 36 in 100,000, according to the US Army – fears are high that the news of the Afghanistan withdrawal may drive these numbers even higher.
Help Is On The Way for our Veterans
Here at the National Veterans Foundation, we’re here for our fellow Veterans, ensuring that none of us fall through the cracks. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of resources for Vets, and their families, in need of immediate and long-term help.
For Immediate Help
For Vets in crisis, there are resources available. The Veterans Crisis Hotline. Reachable at 1-800-273-8255, this phone line is available to both Veterans and their family members. Support is free, confidential, and can also be accessed via text message or online chat. There are also options for Deaf or hard-of-hearing Vets and family members as well. While the hotline is run and administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, you don’t need to be registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care to text or call.
Another excellent resource, and one that’s not associated with the VA, is the National Alliance of Mental Illness. The NAMI website’s Veterans & Active Duty page has plenty of information for Veterans, especially those facing symptoms of PTSD and who may be struggling with the mental and emotional effects of physical injuries suffered while in the line of duty. The site not only provides guidance and advice but also offers several additional resources in the form of other organizations that a Veteran can reach out to while in crisis or in need.
Finally, Blue Star Families offers support for the families of Veterans that have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way for their country. Blue Star Families works primarily in community building and support for the families of Vets, both individuals and organizations, to make transitioning from military service to civilian life easier. In the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal, however, the organization has reaffirmed its dedication to helping Veterans and their families, partnering with the Cohen Veterans Network to provide even more tools for managing stress and worry.
Longer-Term Help for Veterans
Dealing with PTSD and other lingering effects of deployment in Afghanistan don’t go away overnight. Even if a Vet or their family is no longer in crisis, longer-term help may very well be needed. Thankfully, there are several options, beginning with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department’s section on mental health support is large, offering dozens of resources and all types of information on anxiety, depression, PTSD, suicide prevention, substance abuse, military sexual trauma, and much more.
Another good long-term resource is the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. The organization’s Mental Health First Aid program contains invaluable information for not just active service members and Veterans but their family members as well. This program seeks to break down the stigma around mental health issues, especially among Veterans, showcase what kind of support is available for Vets and their families, how to identify mental health stress and risk factors, and what can be done to help Veterans and their families cope with mental illness.
Don’t Forget the National Veterans Foundation
Last but certainly not least, please remember that the National Veterans Foundation is a fully-fledged resource for Veterans as well. Our Lifeline for Vets, reachable at 888-777-4443, is a Vet-to-Vet program, ensuring that you speak to someone who knows what you’ve gone through all too well. If you need help processing VA paperwork, disability claims, or anything else, we’re also there for you; you can request assistance through our website and we’ll contact you.
The conflict in Afghanistan may be over, but Veterans that served there overseas know that their experiences will be a part of who they are for the rest of their lives. With all the emotions that come along with the withdrawal, it’s easy to feel isolated and on your own – but no Veteran should ever have to go it alone. You’ve given up too much already, and you deserve all the support you need and then some. Between what we do here at the NVF and all the other programs and organizations out there, we pledge to support you in whatever way we can. You’ve done for us – now let us do for you.
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.