• Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty

    Fiction

    Beast Fiction: Your Worst Day in Iraq

    A short story from an army veteran about the last time U.S. soldiers were in Iraq and the impossible choices they faced there.

    Agincourt

    This will be the worst day of your life. In years to come you will recount the most intricate details to yourself with obsessive precision, as if tracing the wood grain of a childhood bunk bed from memory. It is not a healthy kind of remembrance. Everyone you love will have heard the story and they will be tired of being scared and sorry for you. You will think it bothers you more than it should, but then you will ask yourself whether or not you even have the right to not be bothered.

    Permalink
  • The Daily Beast

    Scam

    The $600 Million GI Bill Racket

    For-profit colleges are treating veterans like cash cows, collecting millions in GI bill dollars for worthless diplomas while lobbying Washington to keep the money flowing.

    By Aaron Glantz at The Center for Investigative Reporting

    The GI Bill, designed to help veterans live the American dream, is being gobbled up by for-profit colleges that spend lavishly on marketing but can leave veterans with worthless degrees.

    Permalink
  • Getty

    Desert Winds

    Watching Iraq Burn From Afghanistan

    The recent Afghan elections should have been the big news, but even troops deployed to Afghanistan are distracted by the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

    Last week, as the world’s gaze shifted toward Iraq, we stayed focused on supporting the presidential runoff election here in Afghanistan.

    On Election Day we were prepared for trouble, but as the hours wore on things remained strangely quiet, at least in my small part of the war. The “120 Days of Wind” are now blowing here in Afghanistan. As the hot, dusty, and dry season invades, the Afghan runoff vote was an apparent success, though not without bloodshed.

    Permalink
  • An Iraqi woman passes U.S. troops and Iraqi police officers as they stand guard in the Bab al-Jadeed area of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 23, 2009. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

    Iraq

    Mosul's Civilization and Its Discontents

    An Army veteran looks at the fall of Mosul and recalls his own time there trying to civilize the land with guns and money.

    Mosul is in the news today.  

    Not many people in the United States know where Mosul is.

    Permalink
  • Goran Tomasevic/Reuters Photo

    Afghanistan

    How I’ll End the War

    An officer in Afghanistan volunteers to help teach English to Afghan students and ends up making art with them.

    In a clean, well-lit classroom within a modern building on NATO’s largest base in Afghanistan, young Afghans learn trades and hone their English skills.

    “For next time, bring pictures you can put together to say something about your hopes for the future,” said an American English teacher to 20 Afghan students. “We’re making collages.”

    Permalink
  • Redux

    Buttercup

    The Women Who Died in the Wars

    A former Army journalist remembers a memorial service for “Butter-Cup,” a soldier killed in Iraq, and the untold sacrifices of female service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “Here, First Sergeant,” said a soldier of the 418th Transportation Company.
    “Here, First Sergeant,” said another soldier of the 418th Transportation Company.
    “Specialist Katrina Bell-Johnson,” said the First Sergeant.
    A suffocating silence filled the Sustainer Theater on LSA Anaconda in Iraq.
    “Specialist Katrina Bell-Johnson,” said the First Sergeant.
    The sound of weeping soldiers punctured the silence in the theater. 
    “Specialist Katrina Bell-Johnson,” said the First Sergeant.

    There was no response.

    Permalink
  • Erik de Castro/Reuters

    Battlegrounds

    Memorial Days After Mourning Has Passed

    A trip to the Antietam battlefield reminds an Iraq veteran of the friends he lost overseas.

    On the calendar of American war dead, more ghosts cluster around September 17 than any other day. The brutal campaign near Sharpsburg, Maryland in 1862—best known as the Battle of Antietam—is typically recognized as a political opening for President Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation several months later.

    For the men of my former Army infantry unit, it was a defining moment of regimental history and where our motto, “To the Limit,” would be tested as the 20th New York Regulars charged through cannon and sharpshooter fire. A company commander was shot through the chest.  Over 22,000 Americans were killed, wounded or missing in a single day. The Regulars accounted for 145 of them.

    Permalink
  • Scott Olson/Getty

    Heroes and Victims

    Enough With the ‘Veteran as Victim’ Myth

    Our understanding of PTSD has become so broadly applied and focused on victimhood that it ignores the ways that surviving trauma can actually help some people.

    Everywhere you look these days, you see PTSD. The best estimates tell us that only around fifteen percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition characterized by hyperarousal and nightmares, but the feeling one gets is that there’s an epidemic gripping the nation and that every veteran has it or soon will. Recently, however, some prominent veterans have begun pushing back against this narrative. One such veteran, retired four-star general James Mattis, speaking at the Marine Memorial Foundation, said, “You’ve been told that you are broken, that you’re damaged goods...I don’t buy it.”

    A condition that went unacknowledged for millennia and only began its public life thirty-four years ago when it first entered the DSM, PTSD has spread to every corner of our culture, becoming in the words of one medical anthropologist, a kind of “psychiatric Esperanto.” Movie critics wonder if Batman  has it. In April, Sean Guillory, a writer at The New Republic even suggested that all of Russia might be suffering from it. There are even commemorative PTSD patches that consumers can purchase online for $5.99 that read, “P.T.S.D.: Some Wounds Aren’t Visible.”

    Permalink
  • Damon Winter/The New York Times

    Dying War

    My First Week Back in Afghanistan

    A military officer chronicles his first week back in Afghanistan readjusting to the strange rhythm of life on an overseas military base.

    The ramp opened to a spring breeze and a view of snowcapped mountains. I ignored the engine noise and the dull ache for what I’d left back home, and took in the view. I stepped off the plane, caught that first groggy whiff of jet fuel and my body instantly registered where I was. I was back in Afghanistan.

    We all grabbed our gear, lined up, and walked across the tarmac. Personnel specialists divided us up by service and unit, collected orders and identification cards, and led us to a bare-walled room with airport seats. We watched a welcome video, sort of like a corporate video for new hires but this one spoke of the mission, rules of warfare, and what to do during attacks.

    Permalink
  • Kurt Cobain, Jason Everman, Chad Channing and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana photographed in Hoboken, New Jersey in June 1989. (Ian Tilton/Camera Press, via Redux, Ian Tilton)

    Son of a Gun

    He Left Nirvana for Iraq

    On a night when his former Nirvana band mates were being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jason Everman just wanted to drink in a quiet bar.

    It’s a little past 1 am on Friday morning and the weekend warriors are trying to hail cabs on the streets in Brooklyn. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just held a big concert and I’m on my way to meet a member of Nirvana, one of the bands in the hall’s newest class.

    Jason Everman played with Nirvana in their early days but hasn’t had much time to look over his shoulder and reminisce about his punk rock youth before the ceremony tonight. He spent much of the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving as a special operations solider.

    Permalink