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How Can a CNY Afghan War Veteran get Support if Their Soul is Injured?

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Le Moyne College's office of Veterans' Services joining Syracuse University to examine Moral Injury some Afghanistan vets are feeling.

Syracuse University and Le Moyne College are shedding light on what veterans who served in Afghanistan are feeling about the US withdrawal, especially if they’re questioning what they were fighting for. A program Wednesday at Le Moyne explored moral injury, or a sense of damage to someone’s conscience.

28-year Army veteran Carlos Cervantes of Syracuse spent 23 months in Afghanistan over two tours. He says he grew to empathize with the struggle of Afghan soldiers, many of whom he got to know personally through their work as translators. Cervantes says they risked their lives for far less benefit, and he worries about those they left behind.

“If they were discovered to be translators by anyone who would betray them, the extent of harm to them and their families would be massive.  So, knowing we may have abandoned some of them?  And this isn’t a political statement; it doesn’t matter who made the decision.  They ‘ve been abandoned?  There is a need for some amount of closure and many of us are never going to have it.”

Jennifer Reddy, Associate Director of Continuing Education at Le Moyne College says the veterans involved feel betrayed, especially because they worked side-by-side with the Afghanis.

“To have any of them left behind to possibly be killed, especially when they were promised like, ‘you work with us, we got you.’ It’s causing incredible pain, anger.” 

Cervantes admits the feelings are not easy to stifle.

“Over the past several weeks, I’m not ashamed to say I have been driven to tears privately, several times.  You know, military members, we’re taught to suppress our emotions; demeanor, presentation, calm and collectiveness, these are very important when leading.  But at the same time, we have to provide those opportunities, not just to military, but for everyone to be able to express that hurt.”

Cervantes says he’s fortunate to have a stable family life to serve as his sanctuary, and a wife who’s also a veteran.

Syracuse University's Hendricks Chapel has started the Moral Injury Project to help address the issue.

“... (to) create space for veterans and community members to engage in storytelling, reflection, deep listening, and discussion about what this conflict has meant to us collectively and individually and to understand the long-term impact of this war on us all,” Project Coordinator Eileen Schell said in a release.

Le Moyne's Office of Veteran's Affairs and Military Programs also took part.