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In this week’s #vetchat, Marine, entrepreneur, and filmmaker Zach Iscol discusses why post-9/11 vets have had trouble finding work back home.
Every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST, Newsweek & The Daily Beast and a special guest host hold an hour-long discussion with readers about military and veterans’ issues. This week, Marine, entrepreneur, and filmmaker Zach Iscol—who wrote for the Beast today on why and how companies should hire vets—discusses why post-9/11 vets have had trouble finding work back home. To join the conversation, go to Twitter and tweet with the hashtag #vetchat.
John Stockwell, whose film recounts the dramatic behind-the-scenes decisions behind the raid on Osama bin Laden—and airs just two days before the election—fights back against criticism that President Obama was given a ‘starring role’ to juice up his chances at reelection.
For the last few weeks or so, the cast of the film I directed—Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden which will play on the National Geographic Channel on Nov. 4—has been subject to a barrage of media questions that go far beyond the usual queries.
"Why are you trying to sway the election?” “Why is the movie playing two days before the election?" “Why is there footage of Barack Obama in the movie?" "Did Harvey Weinstein force you to be in this movie?"
Even The New York Times has gotten in the act, suggesting that Harvey forced us to give the president “a starring role” in the movie. The paper seems to imply that Obama’s role should have been that of a background extra. I can say with total conviction: President Obama was part of “Operation Neptune Spear” long before he knew Harvey Weinstein was going to be part of a movie about the mission. And no, Harvey didn’t make me re-edit the movie so that the president, in full combat gear, fires the kill shot.
It’s true. We do have news footage of the president. I considered hiring Jay Pharoah from Saturday Night Live to play the president, but he wasn’t available. So I had to go with the next best thing—the president himself. But even with Harvey Weinstein aboard, we got no cooperation from the White House. The president refused to cooperate or re-enact anything. Nothing! All we had was the same photo everyone has seen of Hillary, hand over mouth, gasping at something offscreen, presumably the helicopter crashing.
A cost-cutting change to the GI Bill has cost hundreds of thousands of veterans thousands of dollars, reports Winston Ross.
After serving 14 months in Iraq, U.S. Army Sgt. Hayleigh Perez planned to use her GI Bill benefits to get a master’s degree and become a physician’s assistant. When she enlisted, the government was paying for any veteran who signed up after Sept. 11 to go to any public university in America.
The sculpture of a soldier takes on a lifelike quality amidst the flow of students at a California college campus. (Orange County Register-ZUMA Press)
When she got out, she got screwed. Twice. A change in the GI bill forced Perez to apply to in-state schools if she wanted free tuition, and then a university in her home state of North Carolina determined that she wasn’t a resident—because she’d spent two years with her active-duty husband Jose in Texas, where he was reassigned in 2009.
Perez is one of the 250,000 post-9/11 soldiers and veterans nationwide that the North Carolina–based nonprofit Student Veterans Advocacy Group estimates have been forced to pay an average of $10,000 each in out-of-state tuition costs as a result of a cost-cutting change to the GI bill last year.
Perez, now 26, enlisted in the Army in 2005 not because she couldn’t get into college or find a job but because she felt like it was her turn, she said. She spent 14 months patching up U.S. soldiers and Iraqi prisoners at Camp Bucca, then a detention facility in southeast Iraq.
Perez left the Army with an honorable discharge in 2009. Later that year, the Army sent Jose to Texas, and she went with him—the couple leaving their house in North Carolina behind. The couple didn’t apply for residency there, and petitioned the Army to return them as quickly as possible to the Tar Heel State, where they have paid property taxes since 2008 and where they’re still both registered to vote.
Welcome to another #vetchat, a weekly Twitter conversation—every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST—where Newsweek and the Daily Beast’s @HeroSummit and a guest host talk with tweeters about a topic of importance to the military and veteran communities. Follow and join the conversation at the hashtag #vetchat.
This week's host was Newsweek and the Daily Beast columnist Michael Daly (@mihald), who has written extensively about 9/11 and the war on terror. He held nothing back.
The military was the first major American institution to integrate African Americans. It’s now open to gay and lesbian soldiers. It’s time to let women serve in combat, writes Megan H. MacKenzie.
Today, 214,098 women serve in the U.S. military, representing 14.6 percent of total service members. Hundreds of female soldiers have received a Combat Action Badge, awarded for actively engaging with a hostile enemy. Two women, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Specialist Monica Lin Brown, have been awarded Silver Stars—one of the highest military decorations awarded for valor in combat—for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Michelle Hill from the first battalion 7th Marines Regiment takes part in a patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, Helmand province on June 6, 2012. (Adek Berry, AFP / Getty Images)
Yet the U.S. military, at least officially, still bans women from serving in direct combat positions. As irregular warfare has become increasingly common in the last few decades, the difference on the ground between front line and support roles is no longer clear. Numerous policy changes have also eroded the division between combat and noncombat positions. More and more military officials recognize the contributions made by female soldiers. Politicians, veterans, and military experts have begun actively lobbying Washington to drop the ban. And a 2011 survey conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 73 percent of Americans support allowing women in combat. But Congress has not budged.
The most prominent argument used by defenders of the status quo is that women spoil the cohesion and unit bonding necessary for troop effectiveness. Supporters of the ban speculate that women distract men and that they may even “feminize,” or weaken the military. These assumptions prioritize male bonding as an essential military activity and imply that the goal of the military is to enhance masculinity, not protect national security. Moreover, there is significant evidence that male bonding and troop homogeneity can actually hinder group performance. In her analysis of gender integration in the military, Erin Solaro, a researcher and journalist who was embedded with combat troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, pointed out that male bonding often depended on the exclusion or denigration of women and concluded that “cohesion is not the same as combat effectiveness, and indeed can undercut it. Supposedly ‘cohesive’ units can also kill their officers, mutiny, evade combat, and surrender as groups.” The mechanisms for achieving troop cohesion can also be problematic. In addition to denigrating women, illegal activities, including war crimes, have sometimes been used as a means for soldiers to “let off steam” and foster group unity. In sum, there is very little basis on which to link group cohesion to national security.
Further, the military has actually been strengthened when attitudes have been challenged and changed over the past century. Despite claims in the 1940s that mixed-race units would be ineffective and that white and black service members would not be able to trust one another, for example, integration proved to enhance troop trust and cohesion. Similarly, a 1993 RAND Corporation paper summarizing research on sexual orientation and the U.S. military’s personnel policy found that diversity “can enhance the quality of group problem-solving and decision making, and it broadens the group’s collective array of skills and knowledge.”
Of course, it should come as no surprise that elements of the military want uniformity in the ranks. The integration of new groups always ruffles feathers. But the U.S. military has been ahead of the curve in terms of the inclusion of most minority groups. It was the first federal organization to integrate African Americans. And with the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy, the military now has more progressive policies toward gay employees than many other U.S. agencies. In September 2012, one year after the repeal of DADT, a study published by the Palm Center found that the change “has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.” The research also found that overall, DADT’s “repeal has enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission.” Previous claims about the negative impact that gay service members might have on troop cohesion mirror those currently used to support the female combat exclusion.
A new study by the Veterans Administration reveals nearly 30% of its patients who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD. Jamie Reno reports.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released a new report on post-traumatic stress disorder, showing that since 9/11, nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.
Veterans advocates say the new V.A. report is the most damning evidence yet of the profound impact multiple deployments have had on American service men and women since 9/11. Troops who’ve been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan are more than three times as likely as soldiers with no previous deployments to screen positive for PTSD and major depression, according to a 2010 study published by the American Journal for Public Health.
The report, which revealed that 247,243 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been diagnosed with PTSD, was buried on the V.A.’s website without fanfare. “As far as we can tell, V.A. didn’t tell anyone these numbers were made public," says veterans advocate Paul Sullivan at Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that focuses entirely on veteran disability issues. “No press release. Nothing. I actually found the report while searching for new data. I simply changed the V.A.’s web address from second quarter to third quarter by altering one digit, and the new numbers appeared. Magic, eh?”
Why was there evidently no effort to publicize these new PTSD numbers? Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the V.A., would not directly answer that question, but told The Daily Beast that the agency still estimates that the overall PTSD rate is 20 percent across the entire population of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, not just those who have come to a V.A. facility and are reflected in the report that shows the rate at 30 percent.
Taylor says the 20 percent estimate comes from reviews of “current literature” regarding Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But the most “current” piece of literature Taylor cites is a 2008 RAND Corp. study. titled Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery. The report was a collection of existing data on PTSD that was collected from April 2007 to January 2008 that also included a population-based survey of service members and veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq to assess health status and symptoms.
A US Marine takes a rest during a patrol outside Musa Qala District Center base in Afghanistan. (Dmitry Kostyukov, AFP / Getty Images)
While the U.S. has spent billions on translators, who often place themselves and their families at risk to work with coalition forces, just 50 Afghan translators have received visas this year, reports Jesse Ellison.
Like many young men, Khalilullah Yewazi served with the U.S. Army. But when his unit went home, he was left behind.
U.S. soldiers walk with their Afghan translator near the scene of a suicide attack in Kandahar. (Allauddin Khan / AP)
Yewazi, an Afghan national, began working as an interpreter with the U.S. military in 2006, when he was 20 years old, accompanying units on patrol in the Nuristan and Kunar provinces, among the most dangerous in the country. In May 2009, during a mission to repair a collapsed bridge in a remote northeastern valley, the soldiers he was with were ambushed; shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade peppered the right side of his body, maiming him so badly that doctors initially told him he’d lose his right hand. As he recovered at Bagram Air Base, his unit returned to the States.
Now, with the surge done and withdrawal planned for 2014, Yewazi has found himself alone in a nation where, he says, many see him as an infidel, a traitor to his people, a “piece of shit” for working with the occupiers.
“If I try to go to my home town (in the Kunar province) I’d be killed,” he wrote in an email, “and beheaded because I have worked for coalition forces and everyone knows that in my area.”
So he’s in Kabul, where it’s easier to be anonymous. The treatment for his injury included four surgeries over a period of a year and a half, and his right hand still hasn’t regained its full functionality. Late last year, he was finally able to work again, and he went back to translating—this time for Czech troops. But he didn’t feel safe, and so he quit six months later.
On average, one active duty soldier and 18 veterans commit suicide every day. Morrison and members of the military community discuss why the numbers have gone up, and what can be done.
Welcome to the debut of #vetchat, a weekly Twitter conversation—every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST—where Newsweek and the Daily Beast’s @HeroSummit and a guest host talk with tweeters about a topic of importance to the military and veteran communities. Follow and join the conversation at the hashtag #vetchat.
This week host Marjorie Morrison (@AskForHelp)—a psychotherapist and author of The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis—discussed military suicide.
Despite the many efforts Obama has made to appeal to younger soldiers and veterans, Romney has maintained a vast lead among military voters—and the troops hardly rated a mention at Tuesday’s debate. Marjorie Morrison on the opportunity we're missing.
Two presidential debates and no real mention of our troops, despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama salutes cadets as he arrives in Falcon Stadium for graduation ceremonies for the Air Force Academy Class of 2012 graduation ceremonies in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 23, 2012. (Mark Ries / Getty Images)
Here’s why: 68 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is going somewhat or very badly, and the same percentage thinks we should withdraw entirely or start drawing down troops now. Compound that with less than 1 percent of Americans serving in the active-duty military, so much of the nation feels no real stake in or connection to the war effort. That disconnect and distance helps explain how, at this time of collapsing support for the government, the press, and other institutions, three of four Americans say they’ve maintained their confidence in the military.
A study released this week by the Center for a New American Security (PDF) separated independent and undecided voters into two groups. The first left their votes entirely unchanged when told that most military and veteran voters are pro-Mitt Romney. The second group’s support for President Obama shot up by 9 points when told that military and veteran voters are pro-Obama. The implication seems to be that these voters assume the military backs the GOP, which in turn means a Democrat has much more to gain among those voters if he can claim the military stands behind him.
Despite the many efforts Obama has made to appeal to younger soldiers and veterans, Romney has maintained a 66–26 lead among military voters. Does this explain why both sides have been content to keep our foreign engagements, and our returning troops, at arm’s length? Even as the war in Afghanistan slogs toward a close and our troops return home, polls show most Americans won’t cast their ballots on the issue this year.
We are vaguely claiming victory in this unpopular war, having announced that the last scheduled troops will be home by the end of 2014, a schedule both would-be presidents seem to agree on. “Al Qaeda’s leadership has been devastated, and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again,” Obama said at the Pentagon recently. “Our country is safer and our people are resilient.” It’s a nice statement but says nearly nothing to the men and women who are still fighting in a war we’ve written off even before ending.
A new weekly Twitter chat from the Hero Project, happening every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST, dedicated to military and veterans' issues.
Newsweek & The Daily Beast is proud to announce an ongoing online conversation about military and veterans’ issues, held every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST at the hashtag #vetchat. Today’s chat is being hosted by The Daily Beast's Michael Daly. Each week’s conversation will inform Hero Project TV, the Beast series hosted by Jarhead author and Marine veteran Anthony Swofford, which airs every other Friday morning.
#vetchat—every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST
To fill advanced manufacturing jobs, a new coalition of employers will train veterans, and help them to translate their wartime skills to civilian use, writes GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
In 1999, as soon as he completed high school and following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Lionel Hamilton enlisted to serve his country. He worked as a helicopter mechanic before ultimately becoming a pilot. He flew a Blackhawk in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he helped save countless lives by transporting soldiers out of danger.
A technician assembles a General Electric jet engine in Durham, North Carolina. (Jim R. Bounds, Bloomberg / Getty Images)
Lionel still works on flying machines. Today, he oversees assembly at a GE jet engine testing facility in Peebles, Ohio.
Lionel Hamilton is doing something else, too. He is answering a key question in the debate on how we build a growing and sustainable American economy. That question is not whether companies are hiring again. Manufacturing companies, large and small, are ready to hire. The question is: where can these companies find the qualified, skilled workers required for the high-tech jobs that define advanced manufacturing today?
It turns out that many companies are looking, with great success, at veterans like Lionel, both those just transitioning back to civilian life and those who have made that transition but are still looking for meaningful work. That is why the Manufacturing Institute, companies like GE, Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, community colleges, veterans organizations, and others are launching a coalition to bolster the manufacturing talent pipeline by training veterans for jobs in advanced manufacturing. Our reason is not patriotism alone.
Manufacturing currently employs about 12 million people, and both the pay and benefits in those jobs exceed the national average. Approximately seven out of every 10 dollars of our country’s R&D investments support manufacturing. The point is that while the methods of manufacturing have changed, it remains a critical component of our country’s economic future. We know that there are 600,000 open high-tech jobs, just waiting to be filled. With transition support and training, vets can succeed in these jobs.
The Education Center at the Wall will display photos of the fallen, writes the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Wall, where America’s Vietnam veterans were finally welcomed home in 1982. It was a tad ironic that we had to build and fund our own memorial. I actually led the effort to have on the Mall in Washington the names of the nearly 60,000 service members who died or who were left Missing in Action in South East Asia. But once Congress approved the Memorial, it was designed, funded, and built in three years.
A man visits the Vietnam Memorial Wall May 28, 2012, in Washington, D.C. People around the United States celebrate Memorial Day to honor veterans and those members of the U.S. military who have fallen in past and present wars. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)
Now there is another mission. The veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan need a welcome home. Year after year these men and women have been sent to fight. But the fighting, it appears, is coming to a close at the end of 2014—the deadline chosen by the president and Congress to end combat operations in Afghanistan. These veterans deserve their own national memorial, but the draconian process of first getting Congressional consensus authorizing that memorial and then planning and building it will take decades, not years.
Let’s give the soldiers from our post-9/11 wars a prompt welcome home in 2014.
After consultation with Congress, we decided that the Education Center about to be erected would also honor our veterans who have served as part of the War on Terror. We will accomplish this through a dramatic display of Photos of the Fallen to honor all and to remember the more than 7,000 U.S. service members who have sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.
We plan to begin this year, on Nov. 28, with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Education Center at the Wall. America has lost about 7,000 men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 30,000 have been wounded. Along with the photos of the 58,282 Americans whose names are on the Wall, the Center will house a dramatic display of the fallen service members from our most recent wars, with their faces on large screens and new ones appearing every hour.
Green-on-Blue is nothing new, writes Brandon Caro, who served as a combat adviser to Afghan troops in 2006 and 2007.
When I close my eyes and think back to the year I spent in Afghanistan, the more sinister recollections have been somewhat sanitized, like an R-rated film edited for broadcast. The scenes are still there, but less poignant—they don’t get air the way they did when they were fresh in my mind. I don’t allow them to.
U.S. Marine squad leader Sgt. Matthew Duquette, left, of Warrenville, Ill., walks with Afghan National Army Lt. Hussein, during in a joint patrol on Oct. 3, 2009, in Nawa district, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Brennan Linsley / AP Photo)
As the 2014 deadline to end America’s longest war approaches, the attacks on U.S. and NATO advisers at the hands of their Afghan protégés have become a new component in the conversation about what’s really going on there. But I’m surprised there hasn’t been more talk about so-called green-on-blue incidents or insider attacks already.
I should know. I was an adviser deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. My occupation as a Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (a combat medic) had me working side by side with Afghan National Army soldiers, training their medics, mentoring their battalion surgeon, and helping to stand up their troop medical clinic. Early in my tour, I was well aware that any of the soldiers we were training could at any time turn their weapons on me and my fellow advisers.
The first indication that the Afghans we were training posed a potential threat came on a fiercely cold morning in early 2007 in Darulaman. Before we set out on a routine convoy with our Afghan counterparts, we had to line them up shoulder to shoulder and collect their cellphones one at a time. We did this—it was already standard operating procedure—because our leadership feared that the Afghan soldiers might give away our position to enemy fighters.
I was shocked, and conflicted, when I first learned of this policy.
In our first installment of Hero Project TV, ‘Jarhead’ author Anthony Swofford and fellow Marine Corps veteran and writer Phil Klay discuss why neither Obama nor Romney had much to say to military voters in their first debate.
The Daily Beast is thrilled to introduce Hero Project TV, a new Beast TV series highlighting the most pressing issues facing the military and veteran communities, airing every other Friday. The show is hosted by Anthony Swofford, bestselling author of Jarhead, Exit A, and Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails: A Memoir and a former U.S. Marine who served in the Gulf War.
In Hero Project TV’s debut episode, Swofford sits down with Phil Klay, a fellow Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq during the surge and is the author of a short-story collection forthcoming from Penguin and an editor of the veterans fiction anthology Fire and Forget: Short Stories, which will be published by Da Capo Press in February. In this first installment, the two break down why neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney had much to say to military voters in their first debate—and why there isn’t a military voting bloc.
On the Wednesday before each show, we invite readers and a special guest to participate in a Twitter chat with @HeroSummit at 3 p.m. ET, which can be followed via #vetchat and from which compelling questions and answers will be reprised on the upcoming episode.
Hero Project TV is the latest addition to The Hero Project, The Daily Beast’s channel dedicated to military and veterans’ stories. And on Nov. 14 and 15, Newsweek and The Daily Beast will debut The Hero Summit: An Exploration of Character and Courage—an annual, two-day live journalism event at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., that aims to examine the essential elements of moral, political, intellectual, and physical courage, resilience, and selflessness. Speakers will include Adm. William McRaven, Bono, Madeleine K. Albright, Garry Kasparov, Aaron Sorkin, and Steven Spielberg.
Military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000.
Five people were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday in what may have been another “insider” attack - bringing the total number of U.S. military depths in the country to 2,000. Two Americans and three Afghans are thought to have been killed in the firefight, though few details were available early on Sunday. The incident appears to have occurred after a disagreement of some sort broke out at an Afghan National Army checkpoint. If the altercation was an attack on NATO forces by Afghan soldiers who were militants wearing army uniforms, it would bring the total number of coalition deaths in such attacks this year to 53.
This map, created by the Center for Investigative Reporting, displays 58 VA regional offices and the number of backlogged claims by week on a national, regional and local level. This application will update itself every Monday to show each office's change in pending claims.
From Adm. William McRaven to columnist Nicholas Kristof to Bono, WATCH VIDEO of the summit’s must-see moments.
Newsweek & The Daily Beast are thrilled to introduce a thought-leadership initiative that strives to define America's Next Greatest Generation.