This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
The rapid disintegration of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan and the government takeover by the Taliban has reopened emotional wounds for many U.S. military veterans and left them wondering if their time serving there was worth it.
It also has been a trying period for the spouses and caregivers of military veterans who served in Afghanistan, leaving them on high alert as their spouses grapple with invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Savannah Guthrie spoke about the fallout from the Taliban takeover on TODAY Thursday with a trio of military wives from the Hidden Heroes campaign of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which provides resources and a community for military caregivers.
The immediate question they and their husbands have faced is a heart-wrenching one: Was it all worth it?
Corrine Hinton's husband, retired Marine Tyron Hinton, suffered a traumatic brain injury from a grenade blast while serving in Afghanistan.
"Did I matter? Did what we did matter? And that has been the conversation that we've been trying to have that even if he doesn't feel like it mattered, at this sort of larger scale that to his family, to his friends, to the Marines that he brought home to their families, it certainly mattered," Corrine Hinton said. "And for him, there's also the marine association with courage. It feels like we're running away."
Betsy Eves' husband, David Eves, medically retired from the Army in 2016 due to combat-related PTSD.
"It doesn't necessarily matter that we won or lost the war in Afghanistan, what mattered to my husband was the value that he gave to the fight," Eves said. "And that has seemed to help reframe it from being so overwhelming, and refocusing his efforts on the goodness and the courage and the sacrifice that him and his fellow service members made while he was actually in Afghanistan."
There also have been the raw emotions of watching a 20-year mission rapidly crumble in a matter of days, coming only weeks before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that prompted the invasion of Afghanistan.
Shawn Moore shared the reaction of her husband, Bryan, who served in the Army for 23 years and completed seven tours in Afghanistan.
"He has been absolutely angry," she said. "That's hardest to deal with."
The women are also deeply concerned about their husbands' mental health.
"My first instinct as his caregiver was, is he OK, is this going to trigger him into a downfall where we end up with him in the emergency room again because of another suicide attempt?" Eves said. "I was on high alert, making sure that he is OK."
"The suicidal ideation is is huge in our world, too," Moore said. "My husband spent seven tours there. It is going to be a triggering event. And I'm just kind of waiting for that."
Their husbands have been glued to the media coverage of the situation in Afghanistan.
"He is watching the news all day long, and I think that's because he was so invested for so long in his life in this war, that that is the only way he can still feel invested," Eves said.
"I think that's what's tough," Moore said. "I think we walk on pins and needles, wondering if, OK when is it too much?"
Watching the situation unfold in Afghanistan has not only been emotional for military veterans, but also their spouses and caregivers.
"It's hard," Eves said. "But we don't know any other way to support our husbands and our service members, except for being the rock that they need us to be."
"When I look around home, what really gets me is my 10-year-old and how she is feeding off his anxiety, and and that hurts my heart more than anything," Moore said.
They are grateful to have one another to lean on during this time.
"I would not be in a good mental health place without the caregivers around me," Moore said.
"It just immediately brings my mood to a place where like, 'Alright, I got this, we're in this together, we're experiencing this together and we're going to get through it supporting one another,'" Eves said.
The three women also shared what they want to hear from government officials from the federal level all the way down to the local level.
"I would appreciate some kind of acknowledgement that they are suffering, and they are committed to their mental health and their well being," Eves said.
"It's important to reaffirm with a genuine sense of compassion and understanding that our veterans matter, their experiences matter, that their service matters," Hinton said.
"And that is not only on a national level, we need to hear in our communities as well," Moore said. "They've got to make a point to say your time in service in Afghanistan mattered, not only to the veteran, but to the family members and the caregivers. We see you, too."