North Carolina veterans feel stress of Russian war from the sidelines

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There are blood relatives and there are brothers and sisters in arms.

"When I hear NATO, to me, NATO should be the front line of defense for all of Europe," Michael Kacher, a veteran who served three tours overseas, told ABC11. "Any country that is free should be standing up to fight for freedom - because what else is there?"

Kacher is just one of more than 700,000 U.S. veterans living in the North Carolina - among the largest populations of veterans in America - and many of them served on the front lines, especially in the War on Terror.

"When we fought the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it was more about fighting an ideology," Kacher, a retired staff sergeant in National Guard, explained. "Now it's these countries are no longer going to be countries. They're going to be USSR. They're going to be Russia. Freedom is so much more than an ideology. Freedom is a way of life."

READ MORE: 'Where do they stop?' U.S. veterans, officials explain why protecting Europe from Russia matters

President Joe Biden and military officials continue to maintain that U.S. troops deployed to Eastern Europe, including from the XVIII and 82nd Airborne divisions, will not engage in direct combat in Ukraine.

Kacher, however, warned the troops don't need to see combat to experience mental health issues.

"It's a constant what-if, and taking that much stress and putting that much on you, it mentally drains you and mentally wears on you," he added. "I look at this, and if this turns into another full-blown war, how many of my friends that are still in the military are going to end up getting reactivated? How many just got out that are going to get recalled? And it's not just the troops that are going through it. You have all the family members back home, friends, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters."
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