Richland veterans offer message of support after Afghanistan War ends
RICHLAND, Wash. — It’s been 20 years since 19 terrorists with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four planes and killed nearly 3,000 people in their suicide attacks. The events of that day motived hundreds of brave men and women to join the U.S. military and defend their country. Almost two weeks before the 20th commemoration of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan ended, leaving many active and retired military members grappling with the drastic historic changes.
“It’s pretty hard. For a lot of us, we put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Many of us have probably carried fallen friends and comrades, and the war really isn’t over. We have soldiers across the world dealing with Islamic terror and other terrorist organizations,” said Kyle Saltz, a veteran and the commander of the VFW Post 7952 in Richland.
Saltz said he joined the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks because he wanted to defend his country. He spent 11 years fighting terrorism; he worked as a counter-intelligence agent, cross-trained in interrogations, and speaks multiple languages. Saltz served worldwide in Asia, the Middle East, three years in Europe, and two tours in Afghanistan.
“One of the first things I did after I got out of the military service was go straight to the VFW. It’s frightening, but I have more in common with a complete stranger that’s a Vietnam Vet or a Korean War Vet,” said Saltz.
His biggest mission is to be there for every veteran in the community like other veterans have been there for him. He said the VFW offers help 24/7 and he even posted his phone number on the front door of the VFW Post 7952 location in Richland.
With the Afghanistan war ending, the VFW wants service members to know that the organization can provide healing opportunities to connect veterans with fellow service members who have already experienced a war end.
Vietnam Veteran and member of the VFW 7952, Dwight Carey, said this war is the exact duplicate to Vietnam.
“We lost our support, but that doesn’t mean that you can be ashamed of what you did or the service that you spent in Afghanistan. The time you spent over there, it needs to be in your background and you need to be proud of it,” said Carey.
During the Vietnam War, veterans and service members did not receive the respect they deserved, which made several members uncomfortable talking about their military experiences.
“We were ignored. We were made to feel it was something we should be ashamed of,” Carey said.
Because of that experience, when he returned from Vietnam, he didn’t even put his service on his resume for 20 years. Carey said he is proud of how businesses, communities, and organizations are stepping up to help veterans. He credits the rising respect for service members since the end of the Vietnam War to those Vietnam veterans who continue to encourage people to thank veterans when they see them and step up for those who fought for our country and freedom.
Carey wants to continue encouraging military members to be proud of their service, share it with employers, and build off of the knowledge they obtained from active duty.
Vietnam Veteran Alan Lowe, the senior vice commander of the VFW Post 7952, is also on a mission to share his story and help other veterans find the help they deserve. Lowe said that he still feels guilty about events that occurred during his service in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, but he is not ashamed of his service. When he returned, he said he didn’t move back home to the Tri-Cities for nine years.
“We all deal with it in our own way. Me, I just shut everyone out. I don’t tell my story, but I’m not afraid to tell people I do have an issue, and I have to keep on top of it,” said Lowe.
Lowe said he’s only been a member of the VFW for a few years but said he’s found amazing friendships. He encourages every veteran who may be struggling to reach out for help and join the VFW.
The VFW Post 7952 in Richland is rich with history after being founded by World War II veterans; six of them stormed the beaches of Normandy.
“The legacy of this post is of extreme honor, and I am just privileged even to be a part of this place,” Saltz said.
VFW Post 7952 Contact:
- 1369 George Washington Way, Richland, WA 99354
- Open 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Saturday
- Closed on Sundays
- VFW can help assist veterans with VA claims, PTSD support groups, emergency relief funds for veterans, and food donations for veterans in need. Reach out if you need help.
Additional Veteran Resources:
- Benton and Franklin County Veteran Relief Funds
- Benton County Veterans Court
- Veteran Homes: Wagenaar-Pfister House
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