Concern over spikes in veterans’ mental health after 13 soldiers die in Afghanistan

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As chaos unfolds in Afghanistan, US veterans grapple with yet another post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thirteen US soldiers were killed Thursday in a suicide bombing at an airport in Kabul. The next day, the US military said it had used a drone strike to kill two “high-profile ISIS targets,” Major General William “Hank” Taylor said on Saturday.

Thomas Saadi, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, said the deaths of service members had taken a heavy toll on the entire military community and even opened up wounds to veterans.

“This is a serious concern,” said Saadi, a Danbury town councilor who is a lieutenant colonel in the US Army reserve.


The loss has “really hit home” for the veteran community. “It’s moving to think about it,” he added.

Authorities have noticed an increase in the number of ex-combatants using mental health services.

Jack Mordente, coordinator of the Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs office at Southern Connecticut State University, was devastated on Saturday thinking of the latest US military loss.

“I am very angry,” Mordente said. “Most of them were just babies when 9/11 happened,” he said.

“It is our politicians who bring us to war, our soldiers do their job,” he added.

Mordente served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1974 during the Vietnam War. He does not want what happened to his generation to happen to veterans who served in Afghanistan.

“Our veterans have been blamed and have been the scapegoats for this war,” Mordente said.

While serving as a veterans coordinator at college, Mordente has known two US Marine Corps veterans who committed suicide in recent years.

In 2018, nearly 18 veterans committed suicide every day, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Said veterans “rarely ask for help, especially when they are going through an emotionally difficult time.”

Mordente and others offer support to veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan. Even a simple phone call can help ex-soldiers deal with their emotions.

Blumenthal and State Senator Jorge Cabrera R-Hamden are also concerned about the mental health of veterans. The humanitarian nightmare in Afghanistan is making headlines, rekindling memories of the war and causing a surge in post-traumatic stress, Blumenthal said.

US troops are expected to leave the war-torn country by Tuesday. With the Taliban taking control of the country so quickly, troops feel disappointed and as if the mission is a hopeless endeavor, Cabrera said.

“They went there to do their job. Many of them are involved in building the country… And now it seems to be destroyed and lost, ”Cabrera said. “As if it wasn’t worth anything.”

This has made some veterans wonder “Why is all this,” Cabrera said.

But Cabrera, Blumenthal and Mordente wanted to assure the troops and veterans that their work was not in vain.

“Even though things are complicated and difficult right now, they have served their country and they have served the people of Afghanistan well,” Cabrera said. “And their efforts were not in vain.”

As of Saturday, 117,000 people had evacuated Afghanistan, including 5,400 US citizens, according to Taylor.

Blumenthal said about 350 US citizens remained in the country and thousands of Afghan allies, including interpreters, guards, drivers and intelligence contractors who “put their lives in danger for us.”

Blumenthal said he and other members of Congress met with the administration in April and May “begging” to launch a mass evacuation effort then.

“I hope that our army will stay as long as possible to allow as many Afghan allies to escape torture and murder that the Taliban may impose on them or their families,” Blumenthal said on Saturday.

Blumenthal, who was in the Marine Corps Reserve, has two sons who served in the military. Matthew Blumenthal, a state representative for Stamford and Darien, served in Afghanistan as a Marine Combat Infantry Officer and was successful in helping an interpreter escape the country before the unrest. Michael Blumenthal served as Navy SEAL.

Veterans in crisis or those worried about a Veteran can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, text 838255 or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net.

Other resources for veterans can be found by going to Connecticut Veterans Facebook Page.


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