JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local veterans who served in Afghanistan say the news of the deadly terror attacks and images coming out of Kabul Thursday are difficult to hear and watch.
“Seeing those images bring back a lot of memories," Air Force veteran Ryan Clark said.
Clark was deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 and spent time at the airport in Kabul.
He’s hurting like many local veterans, service members and military families who are watching as evacuation efforts – and now bloodshed – continue in the country.
“It's tough to see them struggle, and you wish there was a better way, right? You wish that there was a better outcome," Clark explained. "You wish you could do more for them, right? You wish you could get back on that jet fly over there and help folks that really need the help.”
He is hopeful that all the remaining Americans and Afghan allies will be evacuated by the end of the month.
Clark also wants other veterans to remember their time in Afghanistan wasn’t wasted.
“Know that time served being away from their families, being away from their friends, seeing sometimes some really horrible things happen on the ground... that what they did was the right thing," the Air Force veteran said. "And that they were really helping create a better world for all of us and a better future – reduce terrorism, help build a country.”
Clark encourages people to check in with their veteran friends and family members to see how they’re doing during this time.
“I think everyone's sitting there contemplating like, what was the meaning of the last 20 years? And I just hope that they know that they're not alone, and that they can have a discussion," he explained. + “We're one big family, and we got each other's back. We've always had each other's back.”
If you are a veteran that needs help, there are all sorts of services out there for you including:
- If you are having thoughts of suicide call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call and confidentially speak with a counselor, many of them are veterans themselves. You can also text for HELP to the 8-3-8-2-5-5, or chat online with a counselor on the group's website.
- There's also a locally developed app called The Fire Watch, which can connect you with local resources to get help with coping with stress, or emergency help if you experience thoughts of suicide.
- As always, you can reach out to Veterans Affairs, or a number of centers run by the VA. Check for the closest location to your home on the VA's website.