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Publications – 2004-2010 articles on the human cost

Learning From Veterans began as a project I did interviewing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for my longtime employer, National Journal. NJ relies on subscription revenue and guards its archives jealously, but the editors there have generously unlocked all my articles that draw on these military oral histories and made them available to the public for free.

Since there are so many of these stories, I’ve broken them into several posts by subject area:

- articles on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq;

- articles on the human cost of the war, from military families to wounded veterans  (in this current post);

- articles on military technology and procurement;

- articles on understanding the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, from tribal sheikhs to district police;

- and items on individual veterans, both profiles and extended excerpts of my interviews.

Many stories are listed under more than one category.

Articles on military families, physical and psychological casualties, and military sociology:

When The Troops Come Home: bringing families back together after deployment

September 18, 2010

“When I was overseas with the National Guard, lots of us got ‘Dear John’ letters, ‘Dear John’ phone calls, from significant others saying, ‘Sorry, we just can’t do this.’ And that was awful. That was more awful than the bombs,” said Patrick Campbell, a former Guard sergeant now with the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “I ended up getting out of the Guard because I had a significant other that I did not want to gamble with by going on another deployment –- especially considering [that] my last one left me when I was only gone for three months.” Campbell summed up, “I’m glad I made the decision I did. We’re married, and we’re about to have a kid in January.”

Accompanied by extended interview transcripts with servicemembers and spouses: Angel McCollum, Technical Sgt. Herbert Simpson and Selina Simpson, and Technical Sgt. Yoshema Bryant.

No Job? Join The Army: recruit numbers rise – but quality drops

January 23, 2010

“We have seen more issues with the soldiers coming in,” said Lt. Col. Kirk Whitson, who assumed command of a logistics battalion of the 101st Airborne Division in 2007 — when “high-quality” recruits fell to 44 percent of the Army’s total. He took the battalion to Afghanistan in 2008. “I didn’t have problems with the two-time deployers [getting worn out], I didn’t have issues with the guys and gals that had been doing it for 10 or more years and understood the way of life…. My problems came with the brand-new soldiers”: drug use, poor physical fitness, and psychiatric problems.

 The Army’s Growing Pains: stress on Army soldiers and families

September 19, 2009

Maj. Clifton Sawyer’s elder daughter “was 6 months old when I left the first time,” he told National Journal. “My second daughter was born when I was over there the second time.” Sawyer had just 10 months between tours in Iraq, and much of that time was spent training far from home. “You never get that time back, but you try to do the best you can.”

Accompanied by extended interview transcripts with Army soldiers about the stress of repeated deployments: Sgt. Maj. Anthony Agee and Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes.

In Treating Trauma, Military Branches Out: new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder

November 22, 2008

Army Sgt. David Gilmore was diagnosed with PTSD after his first combat tour in 2003-04, 12 months in Iraq punctuated by the death of a friend and repeated nighttime mortar attacks. He opted to take medication and to deploy back to Iraq for 15 months in 2006-07. “Take some Zoloft so I can drive on,” Gilmore summed up the decision. “That was my choice.” Today, Gilmore is on his way out of the Army, awaiting a disability rating while assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Bliss. The treatment for his PTSD includes weekly therapy sessions, but Gilmore sees little progress. “We talk about the day, talk about how I feel — it’s one of them touchy-feely-type deals,” he said. “Are you having a good day? Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. My personal opinion, [the therapist is] a little bit overly happy, but that’s kind of the idea.”

Accompanied by extended interview transcripts with Army and Marine veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder: Sgt. Robert Bartlett (with audio slideshow), First Sgt. Andrew Brown, Sgt. Patrick Campbell, Sgt. David Gilmore, and Sgt. Hugo Patrocinio.

Families At War: soldiers discuss separation from loved ones

October 11, 2008

My son was only 4 months old when I left. When I came back, he was 14, 15 months. He didn’t know who I was. That was where all my issues were, with him getting used to me again. You’ve got to be patient with kids at that age. You can’t come home and say, “I’m your dad.” They’re too young, and they’re used to a one-parent family, basically. It took a couple of months for him to get used to me. He’s 3 now, and it’s good because he doesn’t remember it. Now you have to pry him off me, because he wants to hang out with me and copy me all the time. It’s pretty funny now.

Excerpts from interviews with Sgt. Rudy Alvarado; Sgt. Maj. Bill Lindsey, Spec. Amanda Tanguy, and Maj. Lance Varney. 

The Guard’s Turn to Surge: stress on the Army National Guard

December 15, 2007

“I truly love the military,” said Staff Sgt. Curtis Coleman, an Arkansas Guard soldier who will return to Iraq for his second tour next year. As for his ex-wife, he said, “Our career paths were headed in different directions, because mine ultimately is retirement from the military, or service until I can no longer stand, and hers is college. I didn’t want to hold her back from great things — because she’ll do great things — having to wait on me.”

Intimate Killing: the psychological shock of face-to-face combat

July 21, 2007

“I’ve shot a lot of people,” the two-time Bronze Star recipient said bluntly, “but I’ve never [since] had four guys on top of me at the same time.” He had charged over a low hill and come face-to-face with four armed Iraqis. But they were carrying their rifles casually at the hip, while Morris already had his to his shoulder. “I came up looking through my sights, so that gave me the extra second or two,” he explained. “The first guy, I put my rifle on his chest and pulled the trigger twice-we’re within a foot or two-and the guys following him, same thing; there’s just enough time to shift to the next guy, to the next guy, to the next guy.”

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