Area veterans coping with pain, urging support after Afghanistan attacks

NOW: Area veterans coping with pain, urging support after Afghanistan attacks

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Thursday's attack is forcing many veterans of the war in Afghanistan to relive their experiences while deployed. There was some frustration and a lot of pain. But many of them are urging their peers to get support, and they're even offering it themselves.

Matthew McDonell is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He says, "What happened today... That's about as intimate you can get when it comes to a suicide bomber walking right up to you."

Resources for veterans:

McDonell says Thursday's suicide attack took him right back to when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. He fears many of the service members killed or injured were recently deployed. "These people kissed their spouses goodbye a week ago. Now they're getting visits from the military letting them know what happened."

Veteran medic Chris Swift is a peer support specialist who leads support groups for area veterans. Swift says the groups have really focused on current events over the last few weeks, making sure no one's needs are ignored. "Is it coming back to them? Are they able to deal with it? Do they need more support? Are they able to support others?"

But the violence is not just impacting recent veterans of the war on terror, it's also affecting Vietnam veterans. Swift says, "46 years, it's been, and then they see these things going on in Afghanistan. They see these pictures, and it just brings it all back."

McDonell remembers the IED explosions, and the men he served alongside who did not survive. He says service members will deal with the impact of war for the rest of their lives, and need to know there are resources available. "You need to understand that you cannot fight every battle in life on your own. Some of them are just more powerful."

McDonell says veterans must find ways to remember those who have died. And he says civilians may not understand exactly what a veteran is experiencing, but they can always reach out and offer support.

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