Pentagon offers mental health resources to Afghanistan veterans grappling with Taliban takeover

Gen. Petraeus: ‘We owe’ Afghans who risked everything to serve US

Retired commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus addresses conflict in the Middle East.

The Department of Defense on Wednesday released a memo telling veterans that “service is never for naught” and advising them of mental health options as the war in Afghanistan comes to a dismal end.

“Remember that what is happening now does not minimize or negate the experiences of all who served overseas,” the memo states. “Talking can be very therapeutic, whether it’s to a local chaplain, psychologist or someone you served within the military. Do what feels right for you. There is not one way to think or feel or act. The important thing is to take advantage of the numerous mental health care resources that are available to you.”

Additionally, the Marine Corps’ top two commanders released a statement addressing any veterans who might be wondering if their sacrifice in Afghanistan was “worth it.”

“We both believe – without question – that your service was meaningful, powerful, and important,” the statement said. “You answered the call to serve, proudly carrying the torch of so many generations of Marines before you.”

“Was it worth it?” the statement added. “Yes. Does it still hurt? Yes.”

Finger-pointing over the botched withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has accelerated in the nation’s capital, as the White House, the Pentagon and intelligence officials have all sought to direct blame away from themselves. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday took an apparent shot at the intelligence community, which he said never predicted the Taliban could take over the country as rapidly as it did.

Milley’s comments came after leaks to The New York Times and NBC News indicated that intelligence officials had warned the White House and Pentagon that Afghanistan could rapidly collapse. 

President Biden had touted the abilities of Afghan troops before the withdrawal but has since blamed them, as well as a Trump-era peace agreement, for the Taliban’s stunning gain of power over the country. 

The Pentagon memo included the following descriptions of mental health resources available for veterans and U.S. service members:

  • 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. www.health.mil/inTransition 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  Chat: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat
  • Military Health System Web Pages. There are two sources of information on the Military Health System websites: www.health.mil/mentalhealth and www.tricare.mil/mentalhealth

Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.

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