As the nation watched the military mission end in Afghanistan this week, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said VA is here for all Veterans who need help.
Speaking Aug. 31 at the American Legion National Convention in Phoenix, the secretary specifically addressed Afghanistan Veterans.
“I know that what’s happened in Afghanistan over this past month has been incredibly painful for many of you,” he said. “There is no way that anyone who did not serve in Afghanistan, who did not fight in Afghanistan, who did not bleed in Afghanistan – who did not have loved ones served and fought there –can fully understand how you feel right now.”
Reiterating that nobody can fully understand those thoughts and emotions, he extended a clear message for Afghanistan Veterans. “I want you to know this: we at VA are here for you,” he said.
Speaking less than two weeks before Sept. 11, McDonough noted that Americans chose to run toward the fight.
“When our country was attacked on that fateful morning, so many young Americans – some of whom are here today – made the choice that so many Veterans make, at one point or another in their lives,” he said. “They made a choice to run toward the fight – not away from it.”
The secretary addressed the news coming out of Kabul, including those tragically killed during the evacuation in the past week. Veterans, the American public and VA all recognize the sacrifice.
“Their service, your service – your choice to run into the fire – matters, no matter what happens this month or any other month,” he said. “We are all safer for it.”
Because of that run to the fight, McDonough said VA has a sacred obligation to care for Veterans.
“It all comes back to the fundamental promise our nation made to Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – the same promise we make to anyone who signs up for military service,” he said. “If you take care of us, we will take care of you. If you fight for us, we will fight for you.”
He sees how Veterans’ effort have made a difference, and that America will not forget those sacrifices.
“I thank you for all you have done – as individuals, as an organization, as partners with VA, and as a Veteran community – to run toward the fight yet again, helping evacuate Americans, Afghan allies, and their families to safety,” he said. “It has made a difference, and saved thousands of lives.
“The nation will always be grateful for what you did, and sacrificed, for us… and for the burdens that you and your families continue to bear on our behalf,” he said. “We are forever in your debt.”
Need help? Read VA’s four-part series on Afghanistan at https://news.va.gov/help-for-afghanistan-veterans-families/.
Watch the American Legion National Convention general session below. McDonough’s remarks start at the two hour, 46-minute mark.