Tactical Tailor

Dept of Veteran Affairs Message Regarding Dealing With Events In Afghanistan

There are loads of vets out there like me who don’t interact with the VA, so we don’t get emails like this. Thanks to my friend Thulsa Doom, I’m sharing the contents of an email that went out on Monday. Please share this with friends.

Veterans from all eras are reacting to the events in Afghanistan, such as the U.S withdrawal and the takeover by the Taliban.

You are not alone.

Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress about experiences they had during their service. It’s normal to feel this way. Talk with your friends and families, reach out to battle buddies, connect with a peer-to-peer network, or sign up for mental health services. Scroll down for a list common reactions and coping advice.

Resources available right now

• Veterans Crisis Line – If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net

? For emergency mental health care, you can also go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.

• Vet Centers – Discuss how you feel with other Veterans in these community-based counseling centers. 70% of Vet Center staff are Veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.

VA Mental Health Services Guide – This guide will help you sign up and access mental health services.

MakeTheConnection.net – information, resources, and Veteran to Veteran videos for challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.

• RallyPoint – Talk to other Veterans online. Discuss: What are your feelings as the Taliban reclaim Afghanistan after 20 years of US involvement?

Download VA’s self-help apps – Tools to help deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.

• Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) –  Request a Peer Mentor

• VA Women Veterans Call Center – Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (M-F 8AM – 10PM & SAT 8AM – 6:30PM ET)

• VA Caregiver Support Line – Call 1-855-260-3274 (M-F 8AM – 10PM & SAT 8AM – 5PM ET)

• Together We Served –Find your battle buddies through unit pages

• George W. Bush Institute – Need help or want to talk? Check In or call:1-630-522-4904 or email: [email protected]

• Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes – Join the Community

• American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network – Peer Support and Mentoring

• Team Red, White & Blue – Hundreds of events weekly. Find a chapter in your area.

• Student Veterans of America – Find a campus chapter to connect with.

• Team Rubicon – Find a local support squad.

Common Reactions

In reaction to current events in Afghanistan, Veterans may:

• Feel frustrated, sad, helpless, grief or distressed

• Feel angry or betrayed

• Experience an increase in mental health symptoms like symptoms of PTSD or depression

• Sleep poorly, drink more or use more drugs 

• Try to avoid all reminders or media or shy away from social situations

• Have more military and homecoming memories

Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress about experiences they had during their service.

Veterans may feel like they need to expect and/or prepare for the worst. For example, they may:

• Become overly protective, vigilant, and guarded

• Become preoccupied by danger

• Feel a need to avoid being shocked by, or unprepared for, what may happen in the future

Feeling distress is a normal reaction to negative events, especially ones that feel personal. It can be helpful to let yourself feel those feelings rather than try to avoid them. Often, these feelings will naturally run their course. If they continue without easing up or if you feel overwhelmed by them, the suggestions below can be helpful.

Strategies for Managing Ongoing Distress

At this moment, it may seem like all is lost, like your service or your sacrifices were for nothing. Consider the ways that your service made a difference, the impact it had on others’ lives or on your own life. Remember that now is just one moment in time and that things will continue to change.

It can be helpful to focus on the present and to engage in the activities that are most meaningful and valuable to you. Is there something you can do today that is important to you?  This can be as an individual, a family member, a parent, or a community member. Something that is meaningful to you in regard to your work or your spirituality? Such activities won’t change the past or the things you can’t control, but they can help life feel meaningful and reduce distress, despite the things you cannot change.

It can also help to consider your thinking. Ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful to you right now. Are there ways you can change your thinking to be more accurate and less distressing? For example, are you using extreme thinking where you see the situation as all bad or all good?  If so, try and think in less extreme terms. For example, rather than thinking “my service in Afghanistan was useless” consider instead “I helped keep Afghanistan safe.”

Finally, consider more general coping strategies that you may want to try including:

• Engage in Positive Activities. Try to engage in positive, healthy, or meaningful activities, even if they are small, simple actions. Doing things that are rewarding, meaningful, or enjoyable, even if you don’t feel like it, can make you feel better.

• Stay Connected. Spend time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, or those who best understand what you are going through.

• Practice Good Self Care. Look for positive coping strategies that help you manage your emotions. Listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, spending time in nature or with animals, journaling, or reading inspirational text are some simple ways to help manage overwhelming or distressing emotions.

• Stick to Your Routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work, and do other day-to-day activities.

• Limit Media Exposure. Limit how much news you take in if media coverage is increasing your distress.

• Use a mobile app. Consider one of VA’s self-help apps (see www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile) such as PTSD Coach which has tools that can help you deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.

PTSD Coach Online. A series of online video coaches will guide you through 17 tools to help you manage stress. PTSD Coach Online is used on a computer, rather than a mobile device, and therefore can offer tools that involve writing.

If you develop your own ways of adapting to ongoing events and situations, you may gain a stronger sense of being able to deal with challenges, a greater sense of meaning or purpose, and an ability to mentor and support others in similar situations.

5 Responses to “Dept of Veteran Affairs Message Regarding Dealing With Events In Afghanistan”

  1. Bob says:

    I’m rationalizing it by saying that I’m paid to be a soldier so I did my duty while I was there and went home. The ultimate outcome of the war isn’t on me.

    My dad’s a Vietnam Vet so being part of America’s failed overseas adventures is a family tradition.

    • Stickman says:

      Everyone who served in Afghanistan, whether cook or face shooter, aided in keeping the USA safe for the last 20 years. There is no loss, the 20 year mission kept our home safe. Stand proud, we kicked the crap out of the enemy and forced them to flee or hide in caves and other nations while we decimated their leadership and troops.

      • I’m just a civilian chump, but putting in the work to make it so 2500 troops could keep a country together seemed like a worthy option to continue to keep regional stability. We had other allies and contractors, but keeping anything together at that low of a troop level was pretty impressive. I think many people are missing that although not in the same imminent danger, we have around 30,000 military personnel still in Japan and 28,000 in South Korea.
        Being isolationist sounds great for balancing budgets, and seems the USA doesn’t get much love back for any world police duties, but it is never going to feel good turning to people in obvious need and declare sorry, we’ve determined it not worth the effort.
        Like you say, no need to get overly philosophical with life purpose, even if do worthwhile deeds that last a shorter period, those acts aren’t suddenly made irrelevant if things change later out of your control.

  2. iggy says:

    Having seen Afghanistan pre-9/11 under the Taliban last time and a dozen times since, I hope all who served there feel proud for having given a generation respite from those SOB’s, even if it was just one day.

    I don’t buy into this ‘the anger is just something that will pass’. Our leaders failed spectacularly, made us look like quitters and cowards, played straight into the hand of people as bad as Nazis and the Khmer rouge. We should be angry about it – not crazy stuff, but outraged.

    Personally I was angry before all this, and channeled it into a career dismantling terror groups for people who lacked what we take for granted to do it for themselves, and people I trusted to take care of their end let the team down. Even worse, not even a week into this thing, I’m having it explained away to me by soft-headed wokesters who watched the whole thing on TV.

    My therapy – like always because I like to wake up too early to drink – will be to do it all better next time because the events of this week have just guaranteed there will be a next time and right now we don’t have the people at the top I trust to deal with it.

    As the Australians say; maintain your rage.