INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The sights and sounds of a struggling country are more than just the latest headlines for retired Army Staff Sgt. Brian Alvey and Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Workman.
“It could be argued that they’re worse off now then they were before we got there,” said Alvey, who served his first tour in Afghanistan in 2004.
“It’s 2021. This is America. That’s not what we stand for,” said Workman, who served two tours from 2003-2004 and again from 2010-2011.
Alvey spent more time than he planned in Afghanistan. He said he got to know the people well while he was there. He even kept in touch with many until recently. The Taliban takeover has forced many of the people Alvey knows to be unreachable.
“It’s hard. I mean you work with these people for months on end, no different than the people I served with in uniform or you work with at your place of employment. You develop a relationship with these people, are just wanting to do good things for their family. They’re no different than people here, just on a different place in the planet,” Alvey said.
He said it’s easy for him to sit down and make a list of all the reasons the United States needed to be in Afghanistan for so long. While he agrees that needed to end at some point, he doesn’t agree with the way it happened.
“We should have went. They attacked us, and I can list out all the things that we did good but you put it all together and you watch what just happened and it’s really hard to convince yourself that it was all not for not, what was the point, you know?” Alvey said.
It’s something Alvey says people can only understand if they were there, a sentiment felt by Workman.
“I would like people to not believe what you’re hearing in regard to ‘Afghan soldiers are cowards’ and not willing to fight. I’ve stood next to them while we’ve been shot at and took mortar attacks, and they’re not afraid. They run toward the fight, too,” Workman said.
As the Taliban takes over, he’s worried about what will happen to all of the Afghan allies who received help for the past 20 years.
“They are proud of their country but what are you supposed to do with your country when it gets overran, for the lack of better words, ‘terrorists’? I mean that’s what they are,” Workman said.
Now back home in Indiana, both men are still fighting; their battles just look a little different.
“I reached out to my VA (Veterans Affairs) psychiatrist just to talk about (it), just because it was a lot of emotions. That first day I saw it happen I was like well I need to talk to somebody,” Workman said.
“I think you’re gonna get a lot of veterans that just go quiet right now,” Alvey said.
The situation in Afghanistan has shed a light on the importance of mental health for veterans. Both Alvey and Workman said they want others who served to know it’s OK to reach out for help.
Mental health resources
- NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Be Well Indiana Crisis Helpline: 211
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mental health webpage