As the chaotic withdrawal continues in Kabul many Valley veterans are struggling with Afghanistan's new reality.
Some say it has been tough to watch as two decades of effort and sacrifice are appearing to come undone in a matter of days.
"The first thing that goes to a lot of people's minds is the friends or family members that you lost overseas," said Aaron Westman, an Army Green Beret who retired in 2018. "You kind of have that regret too, thinking, 'What was it worth?'"
Westman, who now works as a home inspector in Phoenix, said it is important for veterans to talk with one another and have people that reach out and listen during difficult times.
"There's definitely been some buddies that reached out to me," he said. "We talk about completing our mission...and it changes your thought process."
"Veterans need to check on their brothers and sisters, and the spouses and the children, and the mothers and the fathers," said Cas Facciponti, a West Point grad and Army veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006.
Facciponti now spends her days working with Operation Shockwave. The non-profit works with veterans, and their loved ones, to ensure they have resources and help to battle PTSD and thoughts of suicide.
"We need that social support; we need that person standing in our corner. Just like when we're in the military," said Facciponti. "Look for those trigger signs -- like an increase in isolation, an increase in substance abuse, an increase in any difference of behavior you're normally not accustomed to -- and ask them what's going on."
"We've definitely lost that sense of community. So, it's good to reach out to those guys and figure out how it's going," said Westman.
Over the past week, both Facciponti and Westman say they have been in touch with fellow service members.
The effortless understanding that exists between veterans with a shared experience helps them process the situation.
Their advice to other veterans is simple - do not try to navigate this alone.
"Check in before you check out," said Facciponti.
"We got to move on. We can't continue to think about, 'Oh, I wish I would have done this or could have done [that]."
Operation Shockwave is far from the only organization helping Valley veterans. '22 Until None' is another Phoenix-based group whose mission is to stop veteran suicides by "offering emergency financial assistance, help with VA benefits, help transitioning, advocacy, wellness services, and camaraderie."
The Department of Defense also shared the following mental health resources for service members and their families:
The Real Warriors Campaign aims to break down the stigma associated with mental health care and encourages service members to reach out for help when they need it. Find articles with support resources, video profiles with service member and veteran stories, and materials to download or order at www.health.mil/RealWarriors
The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24/7 for service members, veterans, and family members with questions about psychological health topics. Trained mental health consultants can help callers access mental health care and community support resources in their local area. www.health.mil/PHRC or call 866-966-1020 for assistance.
The inTransition Program is a free confidential program that provides specialized coaching and assistance for service members, National Guard members, reservists, veterans, and retirees who need access to mental health care when relocating to another assignment, returning from deployment, transitioning between active duty and reserve component, preparing to leave military service, or any other time they need a new mental health provider, or need a provider for the first time. Visit their website or call 800-424-7877
The Military Crisis Line, text messaging service, and online chat provide free VA support for all Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all Veterans, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. Call: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. Text: 838255 or to chat: www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat
TRICARE offers mental health care to all its enrollees. Find out how by visiting www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Mental/GettingMHCare. This website also contains links to mental health providers through the TRICARE network.
Military Medical Treatment Facilities often provide mental health services, including integrated behavioral health clinics. Contact your primary care manager to see if this resource is available at your local MTF. If it is, you can schedule an appointment the same day. Find out more by visiting www.tricare.mil/Military-Hospitals-and-Clinics.
Military OneSource also provides resources so you can manage stress and access benefits and tools that will help you stay strong in body and mind. This page provides access to self-care mobile applications developed within the Department of Defense, Veteran Affairs and other partners. All mobile applications are free and for iOS and/or Android devices. www.militaryonesource.mil/health-wellness/recommended-wellness-apps.