From the VA: Afghanistan: Let’s Talk About It

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 http://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: checkin@veteranwellnessalliance.org

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 https://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.

Tough To Put Opinion Toward This Lawsuit

I can’t even bring myself to comment on this disgusting lawsuit. – Ed

Lawsuit filed over display of Bible at veterans hospital

A Bible on display at a memorial at New Hampshire’s veterans hospital should be removed because it is a violation of the First Amendment, a U.S. Air Force veteran said in a federal lawsuit Tuesday.

The Bible was carried by a prisoner of war in World War II and became part of the Missing Man Table honoring missing veterans and POWs at the entranceway of the Manchester VA Medical Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday the table was sponsored by a veterans group called the Northeast POW/MIA Network.

The lawsuit filed in Concord by James Chamberlain against the center’s director, Alfred Montoya, says the Bible’s inclusion is in violation of the Constitution. The First Amendment stipulates “that the government may not establish any religion. Nor can the government give favoritism to one religious belief at the expense of others,” according to the suit.

Chamberlain, a devout Christian, said in the lawsuit the table should be a memorial to all who have served, regardless of their beliefs. The suit said the original POW/MIA table tradition was started by a group of Vietnam combat pilots and didn’t include a Bible as one of the items.

The medical center initially removed the Bible in January after another group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, objected, saying it got complaints from 14 patients who felt it violated the First Amendment. A variety of religions were represented among the 14.

But the Bible reappeared on the table in February. It had been removed “out of an abundance of caution,” Curt Cashour, a Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Afterward, the medical center received an outpouring of complaints from veterans and others, “many of whom dropped off Bibles at the facility” in protest, Cashour said.

After consulting with lawyers, the medical center put the Bible back on the table indefinitely, Cashour said. He called the table “a secular tribute to America’s POW/MIA community.”

He apologized to those were offended by the Bible’s “incorrect” removal.

But Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said it is the presence of the Bible that is offensive.

“It’s incredibly disrespectful, dishonorable, and most importantly, it’s illegal,” he said.