Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The tolls: deaths, PTSD, unemployment

The time has long passed for America to remove its military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military has achieved its objective, that of removing from power dictator Saddam Hussein of Iraq. That mission has been accomplished - America has no further credible agenda to remain.

The above is from Craig R. Vance's letter to the Wisconsin State Journal. Also calling for withdrawal is Susanne Farrington in a letter to the Oneida Daily Dispatch:

More specifically, I believe that U.S. military presence feeds the terrorist movements, disrupts civilian life, spreads arms, and degrades the environment. War leaves a legacy of misery for following generations. We Americans can gain little by continuing the wars. Our pride deceives us when we think we can leave Iraq and Afghanistan in better condition than when we entered. It would be nice if we could point out American improvements when we left, but I don’t think we’ll be able to do that because we don’t live there; we don’t understand their culture.

The letters to the editor page may be the only place in many papers that readers are informed the Iraq War continues.

As it continues, the death tolls mount. Emma Watson (Epsom Guardian) remembers her uncle, British Major Paul Harding, and the day in 2007 when she learned he had been killed in Basra:

As little as I knew that this day was going to break so many innocent people’s hearts, I gently stretched and as I did so my Dad came into my room, he had a sympathetic look on his face and his eyes were awfully red and puffy. I comforted him and asked him unknowlingly what was wrong, he replied with a simple seven word sentence that made my heart sink to the very bottom of my stomach, and made my eyes fill up with salty tears. My heart started beating loud enough for me to hear as these seven words flashed through my head, “Uncle Paul has been killed in Iraq” I collapsed in a ball on my bed, hiding my crimson eyes as they leaked out streams of tears. I kept hearing a gunshot in my head, I felt like I was going to be sick, just imagining my Uncle, my own flesh and blood was shot that was so powerful enough to kill him sent a strange shiver down my spine. As I managed to get a breath of air, I spoke with a shivering voice asking how and when it had happened, I got a reply saying "this morning I got a call from your Mum from Gran Canaria saying that Uncle Paul got shot at and a fragment of something managed to hit his head which had killed him instantly."

Hadring died June 20, 2007. Jamie Henderson (Surrey Comet) reports on the memorial service held for Harding over the weekend who notes survivors include "his wife and two sons" and also quotes Lt Col Patrick Sanders stating, "We have lost a close friend, an outstanding leader, an exemplary Rifleman and a remarkable and decent man. But we are not bowed or beaten by his loss. Instead we stand a little taller today than yesterday. The resilience, determination, professionalism, decency and compassion, pride, good humour and fighting spirit that I see in the eyes of this battalion, despite the losses we have suffered – these things are Paul's legacy.”

Sunday the US military announced: "JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- One U.S. service member was killed and 12 others were injured when a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter went down inside of Joint Base Balad at approximately 8 p.m. Saturday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/ The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The cause of the incident is unknown and is under investigation. More information will be released as soon as it becomes available." The soldier who died in the crash was Michael S. Cote Jr. DoD notes, "Spc. Michael S. Cote Jr., 20, of Denham Springs, La., died Sept. 19 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when the Blackhawk helicopter he was in crashed. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49, Fort Wainwright, Alaska." KTUU Channel 2 News notes, "He joined the Army in 2007 and moved to Alaska in March of 2008." Louisiana's WAFB adds that Coate "was a 2007 graduate of Denham Springs High School. Seale Funeral Home will handle Cote's services, but no times have been set."

In other service news, Jeanette Steele (San Diego Union Tribune) reports on women in the US military and notes that "765 of them have been killed or wounded since 2001" and she notes the similar issues facing female veterans as well as the issues unique to them:

Female veterans who have seen combat face many of the same challenges as their male counterparts and deserve help in overcoming them, said Kirsten Holmstedt of Wilmington, N.C., who profiled Evans and Langlais in "The Girls Come Marching Home." Holmstedt visited San Diego County last week for book signings.
"We're used to men coming home from war wounded and with (post-traumatic stress disorder), and they don't have to explain anything to anyone because this is how it's been forever," said Holmstedt, who interviewed about 50 women for her book, which focuses on 18 veterans from all branches.
"Women come home and they have to explain why they are the way they are — why they don't want to be with the kids, why they want to go back to the battlefield."
Male and female service members can experience different stresses while serving overseas, said Natara Garovoy, director of the women's prevention, outreach and education center for the Department of Veterans Affairs health system in Palo Alto.
There's pressure for women to take care of their children despite the geographic distance. There's the possibility of sexual assault, which the Pentagon continues to identify as a concern.
And there's the worry that women's sacrifices aren't viewed in the same light because they serve in combat "support" jobs -- such as mechanic, helicopter pilot, medic and bomb squad technician -- not outright ground combat.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is among the issues that can effect those serving regardless of gender. Kelly Kennedy (Military Times text, videos from Delaware Online) reports on PTSD and opens with a look at Army Sgt Loyd Sawyer:

But then he spent six months working at the morgue at Dover Air Force Base. And six more months in mortuary affairs at Joint Base Balad in Iraq. After that, Loyd no longer saw death as part of a natural cycle.
The faces of dead service members began to haunt his every minute. Awake. Asleep. Some charred or shattered, some with faces he recognized from life, some in parts.
Once, after an aircraft crash, Loyd spent 82 hours lining bodies side by side, the burnt remains still so hot they melted through the plastic body bags.
He took the images home with him, each of the dead competing for space in his mind. He spent hours crying on his family room floor, weeping as his dog Sophie licked away his tears, the only living comfort he could bear.

Another issue effecting veterans is employment. Jessica Mador (Minnesota Public Radio -- link has text and audio) reports on efforts to find work in a faltering (if not failing) economy. Spc David Reker was deployed to Afghanistan and to Iraq and he states, "When we left there were tons of jobs everywhere. Quite a few in the EMT and paramedic side of the world and now I looked at the papers when I came back and started looking for a job and there is nothing."
Tonight on HDNet World Report, Tamara Banks reports from Iraq in a documentary entitled Iraq: Inside the Transition which begins airing at nine p.m. EST.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends