COLORADO SPRINGS — The Taliban takeover comes nearly 20 years after the September 11 attacks, which prompted the longest war in U.S. history.
A local veteran who was stationed in Afghanistan in 2005 said he would do it all over again, regardless of what he thinks of the U.S. exit.
Retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Israel Del Toro Jr. was five months into his Afghanistan assignment when he was hit by an IED. "I received third-degree burns on 80% of my body. I lost fingers on both of my hands... I was in a coma for four months," said Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr.
In March 2006, doctors told him he would never walk again, or breathe on his own. However, Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr. said he was not about to accept that diagnosis. "I left the hospital walking and breathing on my own, but it still took the recovery almost another three years," said Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr.
When asked about the Taliban takeover, Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr. said the first emotion that comes to mind is anger, followed by disappointment and sadness. "It's not the exit that's upsetting, it's the way you did it. And I think there could've been a better way to do it... That anger can overwhelm some people, that frustration, that disappointment. The question: was it worth it?" said Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr.
Those with the behavioral health services at Mt. Carmel said they have had at least one veteran call and say the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan has triggered mental health issues. "Some of us, like myself, we obviously didn't come back the same way. We were severely wounded. Some of my teammates never came back. So now, those families are probably asking, was it worth losing my loved one for something we were just going to give up on?" explained Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr.
Still, Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr. said the sacrifices made by military members are worth it, despite the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. "Not only was I an operator that was out there calling in airstrikes and destroying the enemy, but I also was part of getting to help build a school for girls. First time ever in the region I was at, where a little girl can go out there and go to school... What we did, it was worth it. Because I got to see, not only to destroy Al Qaeda and get the Taliban out of there, but to also see the other good parts of seeing those minorities and girls live freely," said Sr. Master Sgt. Del Toro Jr.
Those with Mt. Carmel said they are increasing their caseload, and if more veterans do reach out during this time, they will be better prepared to handle it. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center.