By John Byrnes, education director and Afghanistan War veteran
Like many veterans of Afghanistan, I am struggling with my emotions as I watch what has unfolded in recent days.
In 2009, I lost the young Afghan National Police supply sergeant I was mentoring. I had spent much of that September day with Sgt. Ayoub, helping him get his paperwork and procedures squared away, and he was finally getting the hang of his job. He looked up to me, and in Afghan fashion was always working to build rapport by trying to hold my hand.
That night, the Taliban caught Ayoub exiting his police vehicle at his home. Three fighters with AK-47s pulled up on motorcycles and opened fire. Ayoub drew his pistol and returned fire. Outgunned, he went down fighting.
It was hard news to hear. I’ve thought of Ayoub, as I’ve watched the Afghan government and military collapse while the Taliban sweeps through.
For many veterans these events have reopened old wounds. Many of us are worried about Afghans we worked with, soldiers, interpreters, and others who are still in country. We’re also feeling defeated as we watch our work go up in smoke and questioning why our brothers and sisters had to give their lives for a cause to end this way.
We’ve put together some resources to help you process this week’s events if you find yourself overwhelmed by them. Please reach out to one of these outlets if you need someone to talk to. And if you know someone who is struggling, share these resources with them.
The Veterans Crisis Line helps veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends providing qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.
- Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, 24/7
- Chat online
- Text to 838255
1-877-WAR-VETS is an around -the- clock confidential call center where combat veterans and their families can call to talk about their military experience or any other issue they are facing in civilian life. Staffed by combat veterans from several eras as well as family members of combat veterans, this benefit is prepaid through the veteran’s military service.
- Call 1-877-WAR-VETS | 877-927-8387
Headstrong is a mental health treatment practice for military, veterans, and their family members. They offer confidential, barrier-free, stigma-free, evidence-based treatment approaches regardless of era of service or discharge at no expense. Connect with Headstrong here.
- The American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver
The American Red Cross sponsored Military and Veteran Caregiver Network offers peer-based support and services to connect those providing care to service members and veterans living with wounds, illnesses, injuries and/or aging. You can get in touch with the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network here.
Thank you to all those who served in Afghanistan. You did your jobs with honor and courage.