Coming Home: Iraq Veterans

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The recent media coverage of Walter Reed Army Hospital is a reminder of the battle that veterans have to fight when they return home. Getting lost in the hospital’s bureaucratic wasteland, or treated in a mold and vermin infested facility is hardly an ideal homecoming and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For many, life after war means getting fit for a prosthetic limb, or having to relearn the alphabet, or navigating the world with a guide dog or cane. And those are just the physical consequences. The emotional calamities of war can lead to substance abuse, ruined families, homelessness or suicide. And underlying all of this is often post-traumatic stress. During this hour we’ll be talking with Iraq veterans about how the experience of war reverberates in their everyday worlds.

You may be surprised that my thoughts often turn toward violence when I write of leaving Iraq, and of peace. Who, I ask you, wants peace more than the warrior who has seen battle? Yet I still turn toward murderous ideas and bloodletting. Reflecting on what I have seen is most of what occupies those darker areas of my psyche…the time I lived for 10 days with a dead body next to me, some of the soldiers called the dead Iraqi “Fred,” and would talk to him while on guard duty (hey Fred, how are you today”). Or at times I will focus on some person and imagine how I would stop him from hurting my family (often ending up close and personal…of the most violent nature). I have never acted on any of these thoughts but I wonder how many others find themselves thinking them.

Zachary Scott-Singley, A Soldier’s Thoughts, July 21, 2006

photo of veteran

Life after war [culturesubculture / Flickr]

Of the nearly 600,000 veterans of the Global war on Terror, one in every eight veterans has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, so take Zach Scott-Sigley’s situation and multiply that by 75,000. This figure doesn’t even include the soldiers who continue to be redeployed even though they’ve been diagnosed with PTSD.

For many veterans, the road to recovery is paved with stumbling blocks. What obstacles do they face when reentering the civilian world? What is the government doing right? What is the government failing to do? How should we support our troops? How do the consequences of this war differ from all other wars? At what point does endless exposure to such unimaginable violence become the soldiers’ universal experience — from the boy in Sierra Leone to the woman in Fallujah?

Have you, your relatives, neighbors or friends experienced war? What are your stories of veterans returning home?


Tammy Duckworth

Director, Illinois Department of Veteran affairs,

US Army Major, IRaq War veteran,

Paul Rieckhoff

Executive Director and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Author, Chasing Ghosts

Tim McLaughlin

Captain in the Marine Corps, Student, Boston College Law School

Andrew Sapp

Army National Guardsman, Teacher of English, Concord-Carlisle Regional Highschool

Extra Credit Reading

The Watson Institute for International Studies, Public Panel/Live Video Stream: Exploring Anthropologists’ Role as Military Advisors

Alexandra Marks, Back from Iraq – and suddenly out on the streets, The Christian Science Monitor, February 8, 2005: “On returning from Iraq, Herold Noel faced the challenges of finding a home and tending to his family. He moved to New York with his wife and children, then became homeless.”

Zachary Scott-Singley, Thoughts, A Soldier’s Thoughts, July 21, 2006: “Who I ask you, wants peace more than the warrior who has seen battle? Yet I still turn toward murderous ideas and bloodletting.”

David Goodman, Breaking Ranks, Mother Jones, October 11, 2004: “Massey got a job as a furniture salesman, then lost it after speaking at an antiwar rally. Two or three times a week, he puts on his Marine uniform and takes a long walk around the nearby town of Asheville carrying a sign that reads: ‘I killed innocent civilians for our government.’”

Dana Priest and Anne Hull, Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility, The Washington Post, February 18, 2007: “Almost 700 [soldiers and marines] have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.”

Deployed Mama, Home again home again… jig-a-dee-jig….!!!!, Diary of a Deployed Mama, February 26, 2007: “I’m looking out the [airplane] window and there was a large plume of smoke. I lost it. 4 months of junk came flooding in on me. The poor stewardess didn’t know what to do.”

Ian Hester, Home, Pinwheels and Orange Peels, March 3, 2007: “I’ve been home about a month now, and the reintegration process is still going pretty smoothly . . . The job there is so vital and the work so rewarding that I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Harvey Tharp, Describing my experience with PTSD, Harvey Tharp’s PTSD and Bipolar Recovery Blog, February 9, 2007: “But here’s the kicker, the VA refuses to recognize that I have PTSD at all, and here’s why. I’m rated at 50% disabled for Bipolar Disorder . . . but if they gave me any rating at all for PTSD, even a 10% disabling rating, I’d be over 50% disabled and considered “Unemployable,” which means the VA would have to pay me more than double what I get from them now.”

Dan Lohaus, Trailer, When I Came Home, 2006:

3:00

came home in the spring of 2004, and I think I had a bit of a tough time readjusting, to be honest with you. I felt like I was in Baghdad one week and in Brooklyn the next, and I felt like a giant, exposed nerve. Noises, crowds, any type of shifting sights really kind of overwhelmed me. It was tough to adjust, and the more I talked to other soldiers, the guys in my unit and beyond, I found out I wasn’t alone, and this is really a similar experience to a lot of folks coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paul Rieckhoff

3:43

When I came back from Iraq, the biggest story in the news was Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Super bowl. And it kind of rattled me, because I looked around and said, “is this what America is paying attention to?” And I think that’s a common experience for veterans coming home, because such a small percentage of the American population is immediately affected . . . So there’s a real disconnect, a profound disconnect, from the personal side of this war.

Paul Rieckhoff

15:50

I never really expected to be sent off to a war like Iraq. I went in right after Vietnam, and the overriding feeling within the military at that time, in the late 1970s, was that we would never allow another Vietnam to happen to the military. This was within the military itself. Vietnam damaged the military internally and externally to a great extent, and so my military career has been couched in the belief that we would only be mobilized, we would only be sent off to war, for national defense. So, when I was mobilized in 2004, I had some real reservations about what we were doing, but this was what I had agreed to do, this is what I swore an oath to do, and so I deployed with my unit.

Andrew Sapp

23:13

Sitting on a bridge in Basra, probably on March 23, 2003, is the best of my memory, watching motor rounds fall—through a times-ten magnifying scope—watching motor rounds fall on a man trying to ride a bike over the bridge, and then having his dog explode in front of him. That’s something that people don’t talk about, it’s something that people have never seen in this country, and it’s absolutely real, and when you send these young men and women over there to do this, that is the experience they have, whether its motor rounds falling on a guy trying to ride a bike, a city exploding in an artillery barrage, watching people die in your times-ten magnifying scope on the tank, or putting the front sight post of an M16 on somebody’s head and pulling the trigger. Those are things that are impossible to understand, and affect people to a huge degree . . . Seen them all firsthand.

Tim McLaughlin

29:36

If they knew? If they knew I would say they would have to have . . . If they knew, they wouldn’t do it. That’s the short answer. If people knew what war was about, war would stop. We would have to get the enemy on board with that theory too, but war is the most awful and cruel thing you can imagine. And if my parents knew, if you knew, if people on the street, my classmates . . . it would stop. Because the goal of a war is to make it so god-awful on your enemy that he just doesn’t want to fight anymore. And his goal is to impose that same feeling on us. And if the people at home knew, it would stop. And it would continue where it needs to continue, and when you’re dealing with questions of national security, there are certainly times that wars need to happen. But if people knew, they would be a lot more cautious in determining when a war has to happen.

Tim McLaughlin

49:41

It’s the same families, over and over again. We have the same families who have multiple members of their family who serve, and then we have entire portions of this country who have never served. So I’m afraid there’s going to be that same basic lack of understanding ten, fifteen years from now.

Tammy Duckworth

Related Content


  • valkyrie607

    I do hope you make mention of the recent Salon article about the scary prevalence of rape in the armed forces–not of Iraqi women and girls, in this case, but of American soldiers. Here is the link: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/07/women_in_military/index.html

    An exerpt:

    They call Camp Arifjan ‘generator city’ because it’s so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can’t be heard,” said Abbie Pickett, 24, a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Yet, she points out, this is a base, where soldiers are supposed to be safe.

    Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. “The knife wasn’t for the Iraqis,” she told me. “It was for the guys on my own side.”

    And another exerpt:

    The extent and severity of PTSD in women who have had to cope with both combat and sexual assault in Iraq is still being studied, but as it is known that these are two of the highest predictors of PTSD, it is logical to assume that the combination is pretty bad. “When you are sexually assaulted by people who are your comrades, PTSD can be worse than in other circumstances,” said Paula Shnurr, a research professor of psychiatry who conducted a new Veterans Administration study of therapy for women veterans with PTSD, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “You feel incompetent and helpless, like children feel when abused by the very people who are supposed to look after them,” Schnurr told me. “The people you depend on have attacked you.”

    My comments: whether someone assaults you or not, just living in fear of such an event can have drastic effects on a woman’s ability to cope with all the other stresses of war.

    Those who go to check out the article, steel yourselves: not so much against the article, which is disturbing, but against the rampant misogyny in the “Letters” section. Some of it is truly sickening.

  • GodzillaVsBambi

    There should be laws passed that when veterans return home they get the best of whatever it is they need. Especially when it comes to medical and full pay benefits.

  • rahbuhbuh

    Whenever I hear “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” I envision a hunched George Carlin at his most earnestly outraged, detailing the evolution of the word and our treatment of vets. Paraphrased here badly:

    WWII – shell shock (such an honest scary word for a terrible condition)

    Korea – battle fatigue (more syllables, but makes it sound a little easier to cope)

    Vietnam – operational anxiety (up to 8 syllables, totally vague and clinical)

    Gulf War – post tramatic stress disorder (same number of syllables, but all the humanity has been wiped out of the misery)

    I’m thankful that my soldiering friends have more utilitarian duty, outside direct combat.

  • nother

    Ron Kovic, from “Born on the Fourth of July”

    “I want a woman, Dad. I want somebody to love me. I wanna to be free again. I wanna walk in the backyard on the grass. I wanna put my bare feet in the ocean. I wanna run along the sand and feel it on my feet. I wanna stand up in the shower with the hot water streaming down my legs, in the morning…I wanna explode, Dad. I wanna get out of this fucking body I’m in. I wanna be a man again…I just wanna be a man again.”

    [to a news camera, outside the 1972 Republican Convention] “Do you hear me? Can I break through your complacency? Can I have an inch…a moment of your compassion for the human beings that are suffering in this war? Do you hear me when I say this war is a crime? When I say I am not as bitter about my wound as the men who have lied to the people of this country? Do you hear me?”

    “We’re never, never gonna let the people of the United States forget that war, because the moment we do, there’s gonna be another war, and another, and another. That’s why we’re gonna be there for the rest of our lives telling you that the war happened – it wasn’t just some nightmare – it happened, and you’re not gonna sweep it under the rug because you didn’t like the ratings, like some television show. This wheelchair, this steel, is your Memorial Day on wheels, your Yankee Doodle…”

  • As a veteran who served during a war, but was never called on to actually GO to the war, I appreciate this topic. Thanks, ROS.

    While it’s important to deal with our wounded and shell shocked … I do wonder what percentage of people come back with no ill effects at all? You see guys who suffered horrible things but .. they’re just getting on with life.

  • hurley

    I posted this on the pitch a show thread:

    Robin, Chelsea, everyone, have a look at this:

    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/03/10/berman_photo/

    Make sure you link to the photograph they’re talking about, which is on Saturday’s homepage.

    You could build a show around this image alone.

  • Chelsea

    Hi hurley,

    We’e been talking about these images all week. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Sutter

    The images — which I had not seen, so many thanks, Hurley — reminded me of Dalton Trumbo’s great anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun.” Like the photos and Born on the 4th of July, Trumbo’s book forces us to think about the injured in concrete rather than abstract terms, and to remember the real human cost.

  • Sutter

    Thanks also to Nother for the quote. The more things change…

  • nother

    Last Friday, I had a scheduled appointment for something minor, at the VA hospital in Jamaica Plain, MA. This was my second time and again I felt transformed somehow. I suggest anyone reading this, visit their local VA hospital at least once and just walk around a little. Go have lunch in the cafeteria, (anyone is welcome, there is no checking in at the front desk) talk with an employee or patient – or don’t talk, just observe – be humbled.

    One thing you might notice is that it’s quiet. You don’t see much small talk with the patients, maybe some with the staff, but even that is subtle – It seems there is just too much to say, to actually speak.

    The old men sit or stroll with a deep harnessed dignity. I found myself wondering what keeps some of these men going, many were alone and obviously in slow pain. Then I thought that these men most know the value of life better than anyone; Every day they can go on, is a day they can honor those fallen who gave their life – for life.

    In my imagination, these old veterans would be treated with more reverence than your average patient in your average hospital – but that speaks to just one more instance of the folly of war – romanticized.

    But oh – there was one magical moment. I was sitting there on one of the steel chairs waiting, when a lone decrepit veteran started to shuffle slowly by with a worn-out walker. The little wheels were broken, so every step he took made an extended scratching sound as it slid across the floor. At first the prolonged screech was abrasive but I decided to embrace it and it quickly became a kind of music. Everything this old man had been up to this point seemed to be getting projected through this walking instrument – like that old homeless trumpet player I would hear blow on Decatur Street in New Orleans. If his walker was fixed, he would have been invisible to be, but now he existed – big time.

    Now get this, as I’m observing this man, I hear the echo of a saxophone bellow down the halls – I thought I was daydreaming or something. Well, it turns out the VA hires (or they volunteer) an old time jazz band to play in the lobby of the hospital. I swear I heard the music in that old man’s walker before that band started up, but I guess it could be the other way. Either way, the two sounds harmonized and it lifted my spirits and it was sweet and it was deep.

    Before I left, I walked over to the landing and looked down on the lobby with the band playing and the veterans waiting – and waiting. It was not your typical jazz show, to be sure. The listeners – and players, were expressionless, reflective, and in some way peaceful.

    So please take a stroll through your local VA hospital – and listen for the music.

    http://www1.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp

  • zeke

    You probably already have guests lined up for this show, but for a broader perspective on the mental health of veterans you would do well to get the views of Jonathan Shay. He is author of Achillies in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and, even more to the point Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.

  • CookiesAndCream

    [This was comment was deleted for not following the commenting guidelines.]

  • CookiesAndCream

    [This was comment was deleted for not following the commenting guidelines.]

  • tbrucia

    It’s sad that folks seem to live on such a superficial level — but don’t realize how shallow their knowledge is . We repeat the words ‘War is hell’, so blithly. I never know whether to feel incredible sympathy for those damaged by war, or overwhelming anger at them for having allowed themselves to be used so shabbily. If anyone out there wants to read a very disturbing book from way back when, get Lewis B. Puller Jr.’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography, Fortunate Son. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/055356076X/pullersofvirgini . This book “includes a harrowing, agonizing account of Lewis Jr.’s Vietnam experience as a Marine lieutenant, the devastating injuries he suffered mere weeks after his arrival “in country”, and his struggle to recover.” (words from the Puller family website). It doesn’t specifically state that he relapsed into alcoholism, and died of a self-inflicted gunshot. Here’s his life tied up in a bow in wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Burwell_Puller_Jr. But still, READ HIS BOOK.

  • cookiesandcream, we must take responsibility. We elected these people. Twice. Or maybe we didn’t actually. But where are the protests? Where are the crowds storming the offices of the congress, demanding impeachment? This is still a system where there are mechanisms for us to influence things. We have the right to rebellion, but we don’t rebel. Now, if oil prices go back up, we’ll see fists in the air. But not for the lives of these people. We can’t just say that it’s the fault of the administration.

    Silence=death.

    We all know the code.

  • nother, thanks for brining it home. Literally That VA is less than five minutes from my shop. I’m going to stop in and be with it for while. I need something to inspire me about what I can possibly do.

  • lucia

    I recently went to the gallery show of veteran Aaron Hughes in Chicago. He’s an artist dealing with the after effects of a war experience in a unique way: working to bring contemplation and complexity to the discourse as he attempts to understand his experience.

    He has a website:

    http://www.aarhughes.org/

    I found his book of images especially moving:

    http://www.aarhughes.org/dustmemories.html

  • Lucia, thanks for the memory jog; I forgot about artists. Can’t let that mention go by without nothing the blogs of two USMC combat artists.

    Michael Fay

    http://mdfay.blogspot.com

    Kristopher Battles

    http://www.kjbattles.blogspot.com/

    Both post works in progress and some completed work. A far cry from years ago when you’d catch re-prints in magazines or at the museum.

  • valkyrie607: The problem of sexual assalt against female American soldiers is a topic worthy of its own thread. I’ll add one note here from a program Thursday on Democracy Now regarding this issue The Private War of Women Soldiers that reported, in addition to what you’ve mentioned, female soldiers in Iraq have been dying of dehydration because they quit drinking water so they won’t have to go to the bathroom at night where sexual assalt is likely to happen.

    My dad was in the South Pacific in World War II. He had scary dreams throughout his life but my uncle, who was a young man on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific had what they called “shell shock” that ruined his entire life.

    I knew a Veitnam Vet who told me that he had to leave town durning the Forth of July. Once he was walking down the street in Anchorage when some kids lit off some firecrackers. Before he knew what he was doing he was on his belly on the other side of a car reaching for his gun which luckily was not there or he would have shot those kids.

    I can’t put my finger on the info right now but if I remember correctly World War I Veterans were made promises that were not kept and when they came to Washington DC to protest I believe the national guard was called out against them? Does anyone know more about this?

    Ending war is the only answer.

  • hurley

    Beyond the misery and squalor that greet so many Veterans on their return from a thankless imperial errand, there’s the the violence some will bring back, to inflict on themselves and others.

    As Auden famously/sententiously put it:

    I and the public know

    What all schoolchildren learn,

    Those to whom evil is done

    Do evil in return.

    Get set for those tragic statistics to rise — violent crime, domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc. and ask yourself again if you haven’t already, was any of it worth it?

    An impeachment show, please.

  • Potter

    I just went through the 42 images linked on the top of the salon.com page Hurley linked and my heart is beating fast. I am quite angry. My first thought is that GWB and his entourage should have a good look – perhaps have a framed copy or two of no. 1 and say no. 24 or 25… maybe one of the two before Ty Ziegel was sent to Iraq. Nicely framed of course.

    http://archive.reduxpictures.com/Production/PhotoGroupView.aspx?pbid=4&msa=1&pgid=6415897

    Allison says: “We elected these people. Twice. Or maybe we didn’t actually. But where are the protests? Where are the crowds storming the offices of the congress, demanding impeachment?”

    I would send these pictures to all of Congress then. It’s not only that we have not sought this out, not only that we are avoiding, looking the other way, we have been sheltered, prevented from seeing, knowing. As though riding around with a yellow ribbon sticker on your car is all that is necessary beyond carrying on normally.

    Frank Rich this past Sunday:

    The administration’s guilt (or at least embarrassment) about its lies in fomenting the war

    quickly drove it to hide the human price being paid for those lies. (It also tried to hide the financial cost of the war by keeping it out of the regular defense budget, but that’s another, if related, story.) The steps the White House took to keep casualties out of view were extraordinary, even as it deployed troops to decorate every presidential victory rally and gave the Pentagon free rein to exploit the sacrifices of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman in mendacious P.R. stunts.

    The administration’s enforcement of a prohibition on photographs of coffins returning from Iraq was the first policy manifestation of the hide-the-carnage strategy. It was complemented by the president’s decision to break with precedent, set by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter among others, and refuse to attend military funerals, lest he lend them a media spotlight. But Mark Benjamin, who has chronicled the mistreatment of Iraq war veterans since 2003, discovered an equally concerted effort to keep injured troops off camera. Mr. Benjamin wrote in Salon in 2005 that “flights carrying the wounded arrive in the United States only at night” and that both Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda barred the press “from seeing or photographing incoming patients.”

    A particularly vivid example of the extreme measures taken by the White House to cover up the war’s devastation turned up in The Washington Post’s Walter Reed exposé. Sgt. David Thomas, a Tennessee National Guard gunner with a Purple Heart and an amputated leg, found himself left off the guest list for a summer presidential ceremony honoring a fellow amputee after he said he would be wearing shorts, not pants, when occupying a front-row seat in camera range. Now we can fully appreciate that bizarre incident on C-Span in October 2003, when an anguished Cher, of all unlikely callers, phoned in to ask why administration officials, from the president down, were not being photographed with patients like those she had visited at Walter Reed. “I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden,” she said.

    The answer is simple: Out of sight, out of mind was the game plan, and it has been enforced down to the tiniest instances. When HBO produced an acclaimed (and apolitical) documentary last year about military medics’ remarkable efforts to save lives in Iraq, “Baghdad ER,” Army brass at the last minute boycotted planned promotional screenings in Washington and at Fort Campbell, Ky. In a memo, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley warned that the film, though made with Army cooperation, could endanger veterans’ health by provoking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

    I did not elect these people. In 2000, WE did not elect these people. In 2004, there is a lot of question about whether we did again. No it should not have been close. I hope those of you who voted for GWB take a look.

  • nother

    Good point hurley, you had me looking for some stats and I found this site. Turns out 35% of Iraq veterans have already sought mental health services. Those are the ones who “sought.”

    Two things in particular worry me about this war.

    1. With this type of warfare, there is little mental rest. You live with an existential conundrum – yearning for time to pass quickly but dreading the next moment, knowing an invisible enemy could make it could be your last.

    2. Multiple tours – these soldiers will be conditioned for chaos.

    After this, they come home to mundaneness and they encounter a general apathy. They come home to newsbreaks about Anna Nicole Smith’s bodyguard and the intense national debate they see is – who should win “American Idol.”

  • Peggysue

    I can’t put my finger on the info right now but if I remember correctly World War I Veterans were made promises that were not kept and when they came to Washington DC to protest I believe the national guard was called out against them? Does anyone know more about this?

    Google Bonus Army for the details. Briefly, in 1932 some vets from WW I marched to advocate they be paid a bonus that was due in 1945. They encamped in Anacostia, the encampments were broken up by the regular army, 12th Infantry and 3rd Cavalry. The fellow who was in overall command? Douglas MacArthur.

    Ending war is the only answer.

    And pigs will fly and the lamb will lay down with the lion. I’m not against the sentiment but I just don’t see ‘how’ we get from here to there.

  • Lumière

    “…. or overwhelming anger at them for having allowed themselves to be used so shabbily.”

    I posted this on the internet as the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division crossed the border from Kuwait to Iraq, beginning Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 20 2003.

    It is about the unintended consequences of adventurism – the realization that one’s will is sometimes not enough to overcome events.

    WE ARE NAÏVE: A REMEMBRANCE

    When I was 18, there was a girl I was interested in; the kind of girl that you never forget; the kind of girl that, when you look at her, you don’t want to look away – ever.

    She had two brothers, one was a Marine serving in Viet Nam. When he came back he told a group of us ‘what it was about’.

    He said that it was not about politics or economics – “the Vietnamese were so piss poor that they could never attack the US.” He said it was about pitting yourself against death and coming away victorious.

    Sounds ludicrous now, but to an 18 year old it had enough allure to make me forget about the girl for a moment and dream of being a helicopter pilot flying over the jungles of Viet Nam.

    The Iraqis are not fighting in support of Saddam: they are fighting because that is what people do – this is why our adventurism scares the rest of the world – it awakens the desire to fight.

    Her brother did not return from his second tour of Viet Nam.

    She died recently in the town we grew up in, of complications from alcoholism. Her body lay unclaimed for a month because no one knew how to contact her mother, remaining brother, or ex-husband and kids.

    I don’t like remembering this kind of stuff. I don’t like the war occupying my thoughts.

    I hope the war ends soon.

  • maryrossi

    The arts can be effective here — Paul Goodnight, now internationally acclaimed artist, was unable to speak when he returned from Viet Nam … many, many others. And we at Educational Mentoring through the Arts & Humanities (EMTAH) have had great success with kids suffering from PTSD. Cutting edge / innovative / relatively undocumented, but the arts WORK!

  • Thanks Brian, yeah, now I remember, geez, MacArthur.

    As for pigs flying and world peace… Hopefully human beings will evolve beyond war before pigs evolve into winged creatures.

  • PaulK

    One of the problems with the mental health of vets is the chemicals of war. Certain well-known cholinesterase inhibitor chemicals are used all over the war zone. Our boys swim in the stuff.

    Uranium, depleted or not, is as deadly as mercury. Sometimes it causes physical problems. At other times it inhibits almost all the cholinesterase in the brain. Pesticides are also overused in hot countries. Rudder control fluid. Our troops in Kuwait were swimming in crude oil. Diesel. Solvents. Oh, and the biggie: residual nerve gas.

    You may ask, why aren’t the Iraqis dying of this stuff. They are. *sigh*.

    Why aren’t American civilians dying of this stuff? *sigh*. They disappear one by one and they officially die of other causes.

  • Look at the ads the Marines and Army ae placing on so many of the cable channels, the ones that pull in male viewers. This war porn pulls in impressonable young men who think they wont get killed. All honor and glory. My nephew, whi has a mental disorder, was ‘recruited’ by the Army right off his college campus; the recruiter got him drunk and kept him isolalted from his parents for two days. When he got home–he had been signed up and had a date to report for basic. If it weren’t for the screaming, furious rage of his parents to the recruiter’s commanding officer my nephew would have been out of boot camp now. An on his way to Iraq. The danger here is when a genuine global threat strikes, there will be no one left to answer the necessary call. No citizens ready to see the threat as real. No support to fight. This administration has destroyed a whle gneration’s commitment to informed sacrifice.

  • Peggysue

    As for pigs flying and world peace… Hopefully human beings will evolve beyond war before pigs evolve into winged creatures.

    People have been people for going on, what, 100,000 years? We have not done it yet. It might happen but I can’t see people being people if the evolve out of the need for conflict.

    We might imagine a society that has better outlets for that urge than the ones we have now. This could be an argument for a large-scale effort to colonies the solar system and beyond; it provides a useful place for people to go; the frontier and not the army.

  • Brian, You can still have conflict without resorting to violence and you don’t have to go to outer space to find a peaceful county. Just go to Canada. Except for on the hockey field they are a fairly peaceful people, or, at least far more peaceful than our sad beleaguered country. We need more people like Capt McLaughlin to really tell their stories and quit being so darn polite but reveal the true horror of war. Yes, make us puke on the sidewalk! Better that than leave us in polite ignorance while the killing continues. Give us the true picture so we’ll quit letting lunatics like Bush cower us into misbegotten wars. We have big brains and opposable thumbs. We ought to be able to teach our children to solve their problems without hurting others. Maybe I’m being optimistic in spite of the evidence but I do think we have the potential to stop war.

    Capt McLaughlin said he was fine (except for the nightmares) but I thought he sounded like he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. (OK maybe he was just nervous about being on the radio). With profound respect to him I think the manly Marine code is a bunch of crap. If the Marines would open up and start expressing their feelings it might go a long way to end war.

    I think hockey is all the conflict and manly manlyness our species needs.

  • tbrucia

    —-Look at the ads the Marines and Army ae placing on so many of the cable channels, the ones that pull in male viewers. This war porn pulls in impressonable young men who think they wont get killed.— It’s interesting to watch The Military Channel (check here to find where it shows in your market) http://military.discovery.com . It is a very sanitized version of warfare one sees there, and it tells much about both the marketing of war and how to make it interesting. Suggestion: have a pen and legal pad handy, and jot down notes, reactions, thoughts, etc as they pass through you… Humans (especially males) have historically been drawn to combat, and those of us who are not should try to ‘get inside’ the psychology of the fascination.

  • rc21

    Peggysue, Canada is fairly peaceful because they have the USA to protect them. Were they fairly peacful during WW2?

  • Lumière

    I’m glad I listened to this show and I listened carefully.

    My politics are thus: I am against militarization because it leads to war. Nonetheless, I am not against war because, when attacked, we should fight.

    Post-show, I was immediately overwhelmed with hopelessness.

    My conundrum is found in the Star Trek episode: A Taste of Armageddon

    In ‘A Taste of Armageddon’, war has been sanitized, so it can continue – only when it is made horrible, can it end.

  • Peggysue

    Brian, You can still have conflict without resorting to violence and you don’t have to go to outer space to find a peaceful county. Just go to Canada.

  • I found Tim McLaughlin to be a deeply interesting person. Thanks ROS!

  • A second for Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun.” It is the most apt war novel (that I know of) right now.

  • Peggysue

    Brian, You can still have conflict without resorting to violence and you don’t have to go to outer space to find a peaceful county. Just go to Canada.

    My deathless prose was excised by mistake. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was the best post ever, and would have convinced you to see things my way. Forever. Oh and to send me $40 each payday.

    This is a paltry reflection of what I wrote;

    Canada gets by with ‘lack of violence’ and an underfunded military because the United States picks up a great deal of slack in that area. Not continental defense (which I judge the RCMP could handle nicely with backup from their battalion of infantry and company of tanks*) but in the global arena.

    Fiddly stuff like freedom of the seas to make sure trade gets through without overdue interference from pirates and petty nation states and taking care that putative enemies aren’t rearming and trying to hijack huge chunks of Asia and Europe. Again.

    It’s a bonus for us because it ensures the dollar is the currency of world trade. And that the other guys don’t feel like they have to arm themselves to the teeth just to keep from being eaten alive.

    It has it’s drawbacks of course.

    *I kid about the size of their military but not by much. Canada, especially since the fall of the Wall, has specialized in sending their troops in small packets on peace-keeping missions.

  • rahbuhbuh

    strange, my definition of “veteran” has changed in the last year. Prior, vets were old men whom speak frankly, smell weird, but have really good stories. uncles, dads, more colorful or damaged men from vietnam. film reels of protests which happened before i was born. there didn’t seem to be soldiers when i grew up during the limping end of a cold war. spies and white collar fronts to a combatless fight. the Gulf War wasn’t bloody, the vets blended in. Now, vets are people my age and younger. this is new.

  • I have to say that TIm McLaughlin’s comments about how civilians can never understand combat broke my heart in that although I can’t imagine what he has seen and done, I can be outraged that we as a society, take the act of going to war relatively lightly with respect to its effect on all those in theatre….

    Tim, I can only hope that the truth of how horrible war is can be brought back to more Americans. Maybe then, we’ll look before we leap

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  • Knivens894

    As a Combat Veteran with PTSD myself, Tim McLaughlin’s interview is typical of what I would expect from a suffer of PTSD. The first defense is denial, and he certainly has denial. The nightmares should be a clue for him to seek help now.

    Nightmares and anxiety leads to problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which just fuels the inclination to over react to any challenge. I’ll bet he sorrounds himself with weapons to feel more secure, ready for a fight anytime. Then comes the night sweats waking him after his nightmares. Heart arrythemias are not uncommon with PTSD just like high blood pressure in strange environments (fight or flight). He would do himself and his family a great service by seeking treatment now.

    The show was a great service to Society, keep up the good work!

  • I have to agree with Knivens894, in that there is a sense of denial about Tim McLaughlin. His mention of “Emotional buffers” or something of the sort, I found rather disconcerting. I have to agree soldiers with more life experience, who tend to be older, usually cope better with the stress of combat, than younger soldiers. I was 27 when I first got to Baghdad, and turned 28 in the Anbar Province shortly before coming home.

    While I’m not doing GREAT emotionally/mentally/physically now that I’m home, I’m doing pretty good. I got married, I got a job, and I bought a home. I’m keeping it together and taking it day by day.

    I could hear Tim wrestling with his experiences in his voice, though his words implied he felt resolved. I can’t tell a man how to feel or solve his problems… but I can recognize when someone appears conflicted.

    I think there are several issues veterans of Iraq wrestle with… that aren’t always “trauma” related. I know for myself, I have certain adjustment issues since returning that I don’t feel are tied to trauma endured in Iraq. I think a lot of my issues are actually my sense of “self” still unraveling from all the stress of combat, not particular instances. For example, I know I get frustrated sometimes when dealing with simple problems at home, not because I was sniped at while ex-filtrating a hide position one night with my team, but because I’ve simply forgotten the everyday “normal” protocol of day-to-day life. Perhaps Tim is experiencing this?

    I was conditioned through my experiences to resolve issues with certain actions. These scenarios simply don’t happen for me any more. While I still have small conflicts in every day life, arguing a charge on my phone bill, etc. my “toolbox” of conflict resolution, doesn’t fit. That being said, I feel almost more stressed by these little things… and that stress triggers other things inside me, and then I find myself not sleeping, or withdrawing from people.

    Why isn’t there a better definition and understanding of “PTSD” that seems to reflect our actions/feelings/emotions? When I read literature about PTSD, it sounds more like the ‘side effects’ portion of an allergy medication.. ‘may cause headache, sleeplessness, irritability…’

    I appreciate the show though… thanks for trying to educate and create a discussion and portray the realities some of us live and wrestle with.

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