AUSTIN, Texas — With the Taliban gaining control in Kabul, many former U.S. military members are hurting. Some of the emotions they are feeling, can be overwhelming.
"So, it really brought a lot of memories back for me,” shared Blake Holbrook, a mental health peer specialist at the Samaritan Center in Austin. “And then again, I'm in the mental health field for veterans. So, for me, I can't really escape this. It's all over the news. People want to have conversations with me about it and the line of work I do, particularly with the Afghanistan veterans in my jail program right now, it's a tough time for a lot of veterans."
Holbrook is a mental health peer specialist for fellow veterans at the Samaritan Center in Austin. He did not serve in Afghanistan, but served in both Korea and in Baghdad, Iraq.
“I was injured in a grenade blast over there. So, I decided to get out of the military and was kind of that quintessential veteran you hear about, struggling when they transition out of military,” explained Holbrook.
These past two weeks, Holbrook has been hearing from many Afghanistan veterans who are struggling to process the United States leaving the country and the Taliban taking over.
“I sat down last week with an Afghanistan veteran who was deployed there twice, and I just kind of brought them to the side, and said ‘Hey, how you doing, brother?’” shared Holbrook. “And, you know, the feelings that he was having were helplessness, despair, sadness, anger."
Holbrook said a lot of the anger is spurring from many veterans believing the way the U.S. left the country should have been handled differently.
"We could have exited that country with a lot more grace. We had the capabilities to do so, and for whatever reasons, we didn't,” said Holbrook. “And that alone stirs up a ton of emotions for veterans from any wars. In fact, I was just talking to a Vietnam veteran last week about the situation, and it’s stirring up memories for him."
If you are a veteran who is struggling, Holbrook recommends spending time outside, avoiding news coverage of Afghanistan, and speaking with others about your emotions.
"Talk to somebody, you know, whether it be a neighbor, or a friend, or even a counselor or a mental health peer specialist, like myself,” says Holbrook. “Just don't hold it all in."
If you know a veteran who may be struggling, there are some red flags you can look out for. Holbrook said some of the main red flags are: isolation from family and friends, substance abuse, continuous anger, and the person emotionally and physically shutting down. If you know a veteran, Holbrook asks that you be patient and kind.
“Offer that platform of discussion, say ‘Hey, if you ever want to talk specifically about this, I'm an open year for you. I'm not going to judge anything. I'm just here for you to talk,’” advised Holbrook. “I think that's the best advice, as a nation, we can use.”
The Samaritan Center will be opening up a virtual platform to check in with other veterans. For more information on that, you can visit the Samaritan Center’s website, call the Samaritan Center front office at 512-451-7337, or you can email Blake Holbrook directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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