Military moms in Bay Area say the carnage in Afghanistan is especially painful

For military families, Thursday's carnage in Afghanistan is especially painful.

They may not have loved ones currently serving there, but they feel deeply for anyone who does.

"You know I started to get texts, and then I just knew, oh crap something has happened, so I got on the news," said Darby Johnson of Novato, founder of a military mom support group in the North Bay.

The group was horrified by news of the Kabul attacks that killed 13 service members and injured 18. 

"We're all their moms, we might not know them but they're our kids, all of our kids," said Ronda Bunker of Petaluma.

At The Block in Petaluma, site of food trucks and beer garden, five moms gathered, greeting each other with tight hugs.

They are grateful to have each other to lean on, and feel a kinship with all parents of enlisted children.

"We're just a family," said Ann Green of Petaluma, "and even though I don't know these people, when I heard what happened my heart just sank, I was sick to my stomach."

Between them, the women have sons, aged 19 to 23, in the U.S. Marines and Army.

MORE: Kabul airport attack kills more than 100, including 13 US service members

Three are stateside, two overseas.

The moms are immensely proud of them.

"It's what they signed up for and they want to go to Afghanistan to serve, which is really hard as a mom," said Bunker.

Together the mothers rejoice in their sons' successes and commiserate during setbacks or when worry is overwhelming.

"It is hard when you have skin in the game, it's different, which is why we have a group like this," said Johnson.

Three years ago, she started the Facebook group called "Military Mamas of Marin / Sonoma County". 

Her two sons had joined the Marine Corps, and Johnson realized she had a steep learning curve navigating life as a military family.  

Now, about 40 women connect in ways both practical and emotional.

They know other mothers are hurting tonight in a way that no one should.       

"Those moms know their kid is there, the moms have watched the news and somebody is going to get the call, the knock on the door," said Johnson sadly.

For more than a week, the women have been distressed watching the chaotic exodus from Afghanistan.

They feel miscalculations were made, and that the U.S. drawdown did not need to be so unstable.

"The problem isn't the policy of pulling out," said Johnson, "it was the execution." 

They also have little faith in the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline, and fear new attacks in the meantime.

"I feel there are going to be more, definitely going to be more," said Bunker.

They also worry about what retaliation might entail.

"What does America have to do to prove ourselves, tomorrow or the next day?" wondered Wendy Christensen of Penngrove. 

The sense of dread is something they endure together.

"When I heard about it today, it was instant tears," said Beth Cheatham of Guerneville, whose son turned 19 on Thursday at a distant Marine Corp base.

"At 19 he's not old enough to buy a beer but he can be loaded into a plane and dropped into another country," Cheatham said.

In a birthday phone call with her son, they tried not to talk about the terrorist attack.  

"But today I worry about our kids who are there," said Cheatham, "and I didn't have that fear six months ago so that's why today is hard."

Those killed Thursday include ten Marines, two soldiers, and one Navy medic.

At least 18 other American service members were injured. 

After  20 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. military death toll there hovers around 2,500.