Afghanistan chaos: Veterans mental health, national security concerns

Vulnerabilities in both national security and mental health – two big concerns as Afghanistan erupts in chaos Thursday, Aug. 26.

At Rogers Behavioral Health, therapists say it is important for veterans experiencing renewed trauma to talk about it with a friend, family member, fellow service member or therapist.

Homeland security experts warn more trauma could soon come.

"It’s very, very tragic to see what is unfolding," said Brian Dorow, chief homeland security advisor for the MITRE Corporation.

The images are difficult to watch, but after dozens were killed and more than 100 were wounded in suicide attacks outside the Kabul airport, Dorow worries about vulnerabilities to homeland security.

"We make sure that we are guarded, protected – you just never know where this might inspire others to carry out some attacks," Dorow said.

U.S. Marines assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

U.S. Marines assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

Dorow served as a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration and currently works in the private sector.

"The terrorist will seize any opportunity – if there’s a way to smuggle someone into the country who is not here for the right reasons, that would be a win for them," said Dorow.

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As the chaos unfolds, there is also a concern for veterans. Several Marines were killed and a number of military members wounded.

"When we talk about things unfolding in Afghanistan it’s important to remember, they’ve been unfolding for a long time," said Navy Veteran Dr. Josh Nadeau.

Smoke rises after two explosions reported outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, the center of evacuation efforts from Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Smoke rises after two explosions reported outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, the center of evacuation efforts from Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via G

With the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks soon approaching, the images stir painful memories. Nadeau with Rogers Behavioral Health, a veteran of 12 years, now focuses on adult trauma, encourages veterans to talk. He knows all too well it is equally important to listen.

"When you notice someone who doesn’t get very emotional who now is, or someone who is quite emotional and now is stoic – ask what’s going on. Ask how they are doing," said Nadeau.

Nadeau said it is important for families to recognize changes in behavior and when to ask for help.

VA Crisis Hotline

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of help, the Department of Veterans Affairs Crisis Hotline is free to call and is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

Call 1-800-273-8255. Press "1" after calling to speak to a VA staffer. Any type of support is available, even just to talk.

Additional resources are available on the VA website.

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