‘I really feel kind of lost’: RI veteran who fought in Afghanistan reacts to recent events

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As chaos and devastation continue to unfold in Afghanistan, we’re hearing from veterans in Rhode Island who once served there.

Marland Chang fought in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. He said he’s been watching what’s unfolding there now, and said it’s made him feel sad and disappointed.

“As a veteran of Afghanistan, having served over there, having worked with the people, I really feel kind of lost. I’m not really sure why I served over there. I’m not really sure why we’ve been at war for 20 years,” Chang said. “Seeing all of this continuing after 20 years, I feel like we didn’t make that much of a difference.”

The latest terrorist attack at the Kabul airport where at least 13 American service members were killed and several more were injured has amplified his feelings.

“While I’m proud of everything I did in my service, I also kind of feel a little bit lost, like, what was that service?”

Chang said his network of fellow veterans feels similarly.

“The thing that is really helpful is to be able to talk about it with other people, and just know that there’s others who are having similar feelings and going through the same thing.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Rhode Island has been checking in with the nearly 3,000 veterans they serve in the Ocean State.

“We have been actively conducting buddy checks on all of our members to see how everyone is feeling,” said Dora Vasquez-Hellner, Commander of the VFW of RI. “You do not need to go through this alone. We are here for you. We have your back.”

Vasquez-Hellner said her heart breaks for the military families who are learning their loved ones were killed in the most recent attacks.

“The Gold Star Families, they’ve lost a child, a son, a daughter, an aunt, an uncle, a dad, a mom in combat, and it’s just very difficult to digest more than anything else. Right now it’s all very surreal because all we hear is a number. But once we start attaching a face to that number and that person is now real for us, that’s one aspect. But then, to also see that flag-draped coffin as it enters the U.S. as they’re presented to their families…very, very, very sad.”

She said the VFW typically remains out of political discussions, but now they’re calling on Congress to take more action.

“We’re requesting from Congress…we need answers. What exactly is taking place, what is the plan for safe passage? Not only for the Americans that are living there in Afghanistan, not only for the Afghanistans that we are providing safe passage to the U.S. but also for our military,” said Vasquez-Hellner.

As for Chang, he has a message for Americans as the event that started the war, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, comes up on its 20-year anniversary.

“People don’t need to be afraid, and that there are also terrorists out there who are trying to make us afraid, and to have the courage to keep living our lives and making the choices to be happy and not letting fear make our choices.”

© WLNE-TV 2021

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