SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Among those closely watching the crisis in Afghanistan are Kentucky veterans who served there, including some who lost friends during the 20-year conflict. 

What You Need To Know

  • A nonprofit leader says Kentucky veterans watching the Taliban take over Afghanistan have been sharing their thoughts on social media

  • Veteran's Club Inc. in Shelbyville has been reaching out to veterans to offer mental health support 

  • The nonprofit will be holding a support group for veterans of the 20-year war

  • An equine-facilitated mentoring session is also planned for this weekend

Jeremy Harrell, an Iraq war combat veteran, who founded Veteran’s Club Inc. in Shelbyville, said many Kentuckians who served are struggling this week, watching the Taliban take over Afghanistan. 

Jeremy Harrell, founder of Veteran's Club Inc. in Shelbyville, says many Kentuckians who served have struggled watching the crisis in Afghanistan. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Kelly)

"A lot of the Afghan veterans and veterans in general, doesn’t necessarily have to be Afghanistan veterans, are very disheartened by what we see," he said. "They’re infuriated. They’re angry." 

The veterans are sharing how they feel on a private Facebook page, Harrell said. 

"For three days straight, it’s been nothing but somber posts about what’s occurring and feeling like, 'All I did was for nothing," he said. "And so one of my messages has been through this, is that no matter how this ends up, to let them know that what they did absolutely made a difference.”

Harrell called the U.S. withdrawal a "botched exit."

"We needed for the most part to leave, but I think we should have remained there with a contingency, because not only do they continue to need our help ... but that is a strategic location for our national defense," said Harrell. 

He worries about the impact the crisis could have on veterans’ mental health, he said. 

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 112 Kentucky veterans died by suicide in 2018.

The Veterans Community Center is a space for veterans to connect with one another and relax. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Kelly)

"For those who are the most vulnerable, those who suffer from PTSD or depression, or combat trauma of any kind, how are they going to respond to this?" asked Harrell. "And that’s why we have to be proactive in ensuring that veterans know that they can contact us at any time for anything.” 

Veteran’s Club brings those who served together through events like equine-facilitated mentoring sessions and softball games.

Now, the nonprofit is planning a support group in response to the end of the 20-year war. 

The men and women who served in Afghanistan will also need encouragement from friends and family, Harrell said. 

"Remind them that they served the country the best way that they could and that they are appreciated, that they are loved and we are thankful for them," he said.

Veteran’s Club will have an equine-facilitated mentoring session this weekend in response to the situation in Afghanistan, Harrell said. 

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.