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'We served for a reason': Iowa VFW Commander encourages fellow veterans to seek support amid turmoil in Afghanistan

Commander Michael Braman urges veterans to reach out to their local VFW organization and contact their buddies from their time serving.

DES MOINES, Iowa — If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide and are a veteran, there is help. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or call the central Iowa VFW line at 515-255-2139. 

This past week has been a stressful one for Commander Michael Braman. The Army and Iowa National Guard veteran served in Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kuwait during his 20-year career in the service.

This week, the images out of Afghanistan are difficult to see.

"I’ve lost some sleep over this," said Braman. "Personally, you know, I’m stressed."

Braman, commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Iowa, says it's more important now than ever for veterans to seek support for how they may be feeling.

"Talk to your battle buddies," said Braman. "I’ve reached out to a couple people I’ve served with just to see how they’re doing."

Braman said he understands why some veterans may feel like their time in Afghanistan wasn't worth it. That's why he and the National VFW are sending a message to fellow veterans— their service was worth it. 

RELATED: Iowa veteran says service in Afghanistan now feels 'worthless'

"We served for a reason. We served so we can be free," Braman said. 

National VFW Commander Fritz Mihelcic issued a statement on Aug. 16 saying, in part, "While there is bitter sentiment over this withdrawal, we encourage you to hold your head high." 

Braman was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in 2004, just three years after 9/11. While this situation hits especially close to home for him, he said the Taliban takeover doesn't just affect veterans who served in Afghanistan. 

"This is bringing up a lot of issues with our veterans from Vietnam, veterans from Somalia, veterans from Iraq that went through a similar situation," he said. 

That's why Braman hopes those who know a veteran will reach out to make sure they're OK. 

"I'm more worried about the veterans dealing with PTSD, depression right now... veteran suicides, that’s my number one issue right now to focus on," Braman said. 

According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the average number of veteran suicides per day in 2018 was 17.6. 

The top of this story includes hotline numbers for veterans who are having thoughts of suicide. There are even more resources for veterans to take advantage of. Click/tap here to find more information

Those looking to help Afghan refugees at this time can find more information by clicking/tapping here

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