Reader Dan sends a link to this article about welcoming home some vets within the frame of the moments of solemn respect from July 4 celebrations.
Statistics are one way to tell the story of the approximately 1.4 million servicemen and women who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed there. Some 77 percent reported shooting at the enemy; 75 percent reported seeing women or children in imminent peril and being unable to help. Fifty-one percent reported handling or uncovering human remains; 28 percent were responsible for the death of a noncombatant. One in five Iraq veterans returns home seriously impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Words are another way. Below are the stories of three veterans of this war, told in their voices, edited for flow and efficiency but otherwise unchanged. They bear out the statistics and suggest that even those who are not diagnosably impaired return burdened by experiences they can neither forget nor integrate into their postwar lives. They speak of the inadequacy of what the military calls reintegration counseling, of the immediacy of their worst memories, of their helplessness in battle, of the struggle to rejoin a society that seems unwilling or unable to comprehend the price of their service. Strangers to one another and to me, they nevertheless tried, sometimes through tears, to communicate what the intensity of an ambiguous war has done to them. One veteran, Sue Randolph, put it this way: “People walk up to me and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ And I know they mean well, but I want to ask, ‘Do you know what you’re thanking me for?’” She, Rocky, and Michael Goss offer their stories here in the hope that citizens will begin to know.
Their stories are in the article.