Triad veterans react to violence in Afghanistan

Piedmont Triad News

(WGHP) — They dodged bullets and bombs from Taliban forces. Some veterans who put their lives on the line to serve in the war in Afghanistan are shocked to see Taliban forces regain control of the country so fast.

“I was stunned,” said Cherissa Jackson, an Afghanistan war veteran and AMVETS chief medical executive. “It was a trigger for me, like, oh my goodness how could this have happened?”

Jackson had flashbacks to her time serving our country when she was in the Air Force. She said watching the images from more than 7,000 miles away was disappointing and overwhelming.

“I immediately thought, why was I there?” she said. “What was all the fighting that we did, what was all of taking care of the soldiers, what was all that for?”

She was overseas at the height of the war in 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed.

As a single mother, she fought for her twin daughters and her country. It gave her strength on the front lines.

“Had I died, because I was in a near-death experience in Afghanistan, would my death have been in vain, would my daughters be asking why did my mom go and die for this?” Jackson said.

It was her job to care for soldiers pulled off the battlefield. She said soldiers suffered burns, amputations, and gunshot wounds.

She even faced a life-or-death scare when Taliban forces bombed her tent.

“I will never forget having to run to the bunker,” she said. “I was responsible for all of the soldiers in the tent and making sure I had accountability for all the soldiers, they were all crying and feeling like, oh my god is this the day that we’re going to die.”

Jackson was one of the lucky ones. Many of her fellow soldiers didn’t make it home.

“I saw what they could do,” Jackson said. “I saw the injuries that our soldiers had, so I know that they were very vicious, and I know that they were after the Americans by any means necessary.”

Joe Chenelly is an Afghanistan war veteran and executive director of AMVETS. He was one of the first to step foot in enemy territory in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The oppression was very deep throughout the entire country,” he said. “Rubble was still hot in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania and still fresh on everyone’s minds.”

Chenelly told FOX8 two decades of work had been erased in days.

“Anger, a lot of disappointment and concern has replaced that numbness,” he said.

Chenelly said soldiers need to be in Afghanistan until all Americans and Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S. are safely out.

“I’m just really surprised in the way that we did the troop drawdown and pulling our troops out so quickly in a way that created a vacuum,” he said.

He hopes all veterans know their sacrifice may have saved lives and prevented a terrorist attack on American soil.

“We need to be there for our veterans at this point,” Chenelly said. “We need to let them know that their service mattered.”

Jackson told FOX8 some veterans have feelings of PTSD seeing the Taliban takeover. She leads the AMVETS HEAL Program which connects veterans with mental health and specialized services to help them cope with the trauma.

“I would say to the community rally behind our veterans,” she said. “Offer support, just don’t say thank you for your service but ask them how are they doing, because you may be the last person they speak to.”

AMVETS is a service organization for veterans that has more than 250,000 members. This week the organization is hosting the national convention in Greensboro, which will bring hundreds of veterans from all over the country to the Triad.

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