My Turn: Help for veterans feeling range of emotions over Afghanistan

Published: 8/19/2021 3:50:23 PM

The events in Afghanistan over the last two weeks, especially since last Sunday, have been shocking.

To all of you who have served and sacrificed during our nation’s involvement in Afghanistan, especially our Gold Star families, we want you to know that we care about you, and you are not alone.

With the fall of Afghanistan our organization urges our fellow citizens to visit, call, text, email, and/or mail veterans and their family members to ask if they are OK. Please focus your contact efforts on younger veterans, who were more likely to have served in Afghanistan and/or Iraq following the attack on our nation on Sept. 11, 2001.

From our many contacts in the veteran community, we know that veterans are feeling a range of emotions — from confusion and anger to disillusionment and moral outrage. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans may be questioning the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifice they made. It’s normal to feel this way.

It is also important for our community to also recognize the sacrifices of their family members — some of whom endured one or several deployments that generated daily uncertainty. And they now may be deeply concerned about the anxiety or depression in their veteran from the images in Afghanistan.

Here are some resources available right now to veterans, including those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq:

■VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System (413-584-4040). Veterans can talk with local mental health professionals.

■Veterans Crisis Line. If a veteran is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 then press 1. Or you can visit veteranscrisisline.net/

■Vet Centers. Discuss how you feel with other veterans in these community-based counseling centers. Seventy percent of Vet Center staff are veterans. The nearest Vet Center is in West Springfield. Call 1-877-927-8387 for more information.

We urge veterans and their loved ones to reach out to comrades in arms, family members, friends and organizations who are hurting right now over their sacrifices in Afghanistan. We stand with you and support you.

Larry Cervelli is chair of the Western Massachusetts Veterans Outreach Project. The project is a consortium of community service providers and concerned citizens who work to educate and inform the community about the unique circumstances of military service and assist care providers with greater understanding of the physical and mental health needs of veterans.


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