INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Painful images from Afghanistan on Thursday served as a reminder of the past for many veterans, including former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard who was a Marine for 23 years.
Although Ballard never spent time in Afghanistan, he did fight in the Middle East.
“I was in the Gulf War, back in ’90-91. This is a little bit different scenario than Iraq and Iran, but this is disturbing on so many levels because unfortunately we haven’t learned much history it seems like along the way,” Ballard said.
The attack in Afghanistan reminded the former Republican mayor of a tragic event that happened while he was still in uniform.
“I certainly remember when we were in Beirut, I remember exactly where I was when the Beirut barracks blew up and 241 sailors and Marines were killed that day. These things are tragic and, like I said, it hit me hard,” Ballard said.
He said he always understood America’s time in the Middle East would have to eventually come to an end, but he and many other veterans are not OK with how it happened.
“There were other options available. I’m pretty much sure of that. Why they chose what they chose, I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but it doesn’t look to be a clean option,” Ballard said.
“We are where we are right now, and I hope that the nation reacts appropriately,” Ballard said.
- Kabul airport attack kills 60 Afghans, 13 US troops
- Biden vows to finish Kabul evacuation, avenge US deaths
Afghanistan veteran Gordon Smith said Thursday’s attacks and future ones are inevitable.
“I don’t care if we would have evacuated today, next month, next year, 10 years from now. I think that we would see the same thing,” Smith said.
Now, Smith said, he’s worried about what we may see next.
“Will al-Qaida, Taliban, ISIS-K, all these organizations, whoever comes out on top, are they gonna start empire-building? Are they gonna go to Pakistan? Are they gonna go to Qatar? Which, I would think they probably would if I were them. It would be easy,” Smith said.
When it comes to the immediate future, both men said they’ll be on edge until every American soldier is back home.
“Crowds are going to be busting through. The Taliban will be there. Al-Qaeda is gonna be there. Everyone and their brother, and wouldn’t it be to their credit and to their purposes to blow up the last American aircraft pulling out of there,” Smith said.
Smith, who works in veteran services, said his phone has been ringing constantly.
News 8 also heard from veterans last week who told us they had been in close communication with their Veterans Affairs therapists. They said no veteran should be ashamed 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