By Louisa Moller

BOSTON (CBS) — Veterans and others who served in Afghanistan reacted with sadness and frustration to the Taliban take over of the country after 20 years of war.

“To see the Taliban occupying the presidential palace at a table that I was sitting at three years ago in 2018 to try to bring peace to that country, it’s heartbreaking,” said Massachusetts State Senator John Velis who spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

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Velis, who is an Army Reservist from Westfield, worked directly with the Afghan people. During his first deployment, he worked on a program to give them a fair legal system. Like so many other veterans, Velis said he is left wondering whether it was all worth it.

“Families are now without dads, brothers, and sisters. And that’s just a tough pill to swallow,” Velis said.

Paul Zeizel also spent time in Afghanistan as a civilian psychologist for the State Department and helping soldiers debrief after combat.

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Zeizel said he and his colleagues from that time have called each other to debrief on the situation.

“It’s not for us that I feel bad. It’s for all the women and children whose rights will be stripped away,” Zeizel said one of his friends told him.

That is why Velis is now channeling his emotions into action by advocating on behalf of Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S. Military. He said thousands are stuck in the country and in grave danger.

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“Linguists are being killed as we speak. They are being slaughtered. And they will continue to be slaughtered unless they’re gotten out of there,” Velis said.

Louisa Moller