It is with a heavy heart that I reach out today to our WoVeN Veterans, to your families, to your friends, and to your comrades. We have heard your stories and seen your frustration, deep sadness, and despair over the course of this last week as we watched the news coverage of the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan. The Afghan people’s plight is terrifying to behold as the country falls so rapidly to ruthless Taliban control. We know many of our WoVeN women were among the hundreds of thousands who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last 20 years to keep our country safe from terrorism and to preserve our democracy and way of life. Many of you were among the 20,000 who were wounded with both visible and invisible injuries. Many of you knew, respected and loved those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country and did not come home. Some of our WoVeN women may still have friends – both American service members and Afghan nationals – whose lives remain at risk as this evacuation continues. And some may have friends and loved ones for whom evacuation is not possible. For some of our women who served in other circumstances and in other eras, the takeover by the Taliban might bring up difficult memories such as the fall of Saigon or other similar military events. There is little question that this week has been extremely difficult in countless ways. Please know that you have an entire WoVeN family standing behind you. You are not alone.
In my head, as I try to make sense of this, I understand that there are so many factors that play into the decisions made by our nation’s leaders over the last two decades – some which I have agreed with and some which I have not. I understand that it is complicated. However, in my heart, I can make sense of nothing because the pain is overwhelming. As a woman, my heart aches for the women of Afghanistan and for the basic liberties that will be stripped from them under Taliban law. I am terrified for them of the extreme, harsh, and even deadly punishments that will inevitably be meted out by Taliban authorities over infractions for things that I take for granted every day, like simply walking down the street alone. As a mother of two daughters, I cannot even begin to imagine the terror and despair that the mothers of Afghan children must be feeling as their daughters are denied the right to education, future employment, independence, basic freedoms and who now must face dangers thought to be in the past. The image of parents passing their babies to American soldiers so that they might have a chance at a better life is forever seared in my brain. As a wife, the fear that the wives of Afghani men must be feeling for their husbands’ safety is unfathomable. I can only imagine what it was like for women living unwillingly in these circumstances to witness you – American women wearing the uniform and exemplifying freedom and independence and strength. I can only imagine that your presence has been a beacon of hope for many women in Afghanistan and beyond. For that it is precisely what American women in the military represent to me, to my daughters, and to women all over the world – power, freedom, independence, and strength. The events of the past week have been disastrous, but, in my humble opinion, those events do not define the service of our military members or our Veterans. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for keeping me, my daughters, and our entire nation safe and free, each and every day.
If you, or someone you know, are needing or wanting support during this time, reach out to our WoVeN sisterhood. We are all here to support you and each other. Here are some additional resources that you might also find helpful:
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.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.
With much respect,