• 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.”

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  • President Barack Obama shakes the prosthetic hand of Medal of Honor award recipient U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Leroy Petry after he introduced Obama to speak at the American Latino Heritage Forum in Washington October 12, 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

    Heroes

    The Medal of Honor Disgrace

    The system for military awards is broken. The Medal of Honor has been awarded only 13 times in more than a decade of conflict while deserving recipients are passed over.

    In the spring of 2005, after my army unit’s return from Iraq, I found myself on stage in a converted Fort Hood chapel to receive a military award for valor. Several other awardees stood at attention beside me. We looked out at the faces of our fellow cavalry troopers, the men in the audience who were not so lucky as to get a medal that day. I knew for a fact, because I had seen it, that some of them had done the exact same thing I had, but would not be receiving any formal recognition for it. One of those men, I recently learned, has had trouble convincing the VA that he served in Iraq at all.

    Correcting similar injustices, last week President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to a group of 24 veterans whose valor in conflicts from World War II through Vietnam had been slighted by institutional bigotry. Those who received these awards clearly deserved them, but righting past wrongs doesn’t fix our current problem: last week’s historical Medals of Honor represent almost twice the total number bestowed upon Iraq and Afghanistan veterans over more than a decade of fighting.

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  • Chris Keane/Reuters

    Sex & the Military

    How Did the General Get Off?

    A top Army officer faced life imprisonment on sexual assault charges and other crimes but walked away Thursday with a minor reprimand. How did that happen?

    Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who had been charged with sexually assaulting a female captain who worked for him, walked free Thursday.

    Sinclair received a surprisingly light sentence given that he had originally faced life imprisonment and his own defense lawyers seemed resigned to some jail time, asking this week that he not be imprisoned for more than 18 months. Instead, in a decision that surprised many, Sinclair was docked $20,000 in pay and received a letter of reprimand, but was allowed to remain in the military and keep his pension and benefits.

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  • Getty

    Long Road

    Media’s ‘Coming Home’ Spectacle

    Popular video clips of soldiers' emotional reunions with their loved ones are sure to stir emotions in viewers, but the real homecoming starts after the tears are dry.

    I have this terrible habit of getting sucked into social media on Veterans Day. Most of my friends are veterans or still in the military, and I like to see the old pictures they post and the articles they write and share. It’s fun, and it’s a reminder that a small community of like-minded people is out there.

    And then I saw this gem from the master of lists, BuzzFeed: 18 Tear-Jerking Moments of Soldiers Reuniting With Their Dogs.

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  • A veteran skis downhill at the 27th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. The Clinic is the worlds largest learn to ski, adaptive winter sports rehabilitative event for U.S. military service Veterans. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

    Sports Therapy

    Healing Veterans Through Sports

    An Iraq veteran and double amputee is back hitting the slopes. Active sports are a new approach to helping disabled veterans recover from their injuries.

    When you see Kevin Pannell hitting the slopes at Mount Hood Meadows, just outside of Portland, Oregon, you’d have no idea the seasoned snowboarder, who was awarded a Purple Heart in Iraq, is a double amputee. 

    On June 13, 2004, Halfway through his second tour of duty in what he says had been a “pretty uneventful Army career,” the sergeant from Arkansas was working security on a routine mission in Baghdad when it all changed. 

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  • Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

    National Security

    Now the Military Needs to Be Fixed

    The shutdown is over but its harm to the military still needs to be repaired. Marine veteran Andrew Borene calls for the politicians responsible to own up and fix the situation.

    The epic embarrassment of our government’s shutdown has finally ended but in its wake we’re now faced with a serious national security deficit. Unlike our political leaders, America’s enemies didn’t take the last two weeks off to fight amongst themselves. Even with the government reopened our military and national security agencies can’t just get back to work as though nothing happened, first they have to repair the considerable damage caused.

    If a foreign power had crippled American national security and defense readiness by neutralizing 72% of CIA civilians and taking much the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s civilian staff out of action by nefarious means, our nation would justifiably have declared war. When that kind of devastating attack comes from within, it’s just called “politics.”

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  • Sergeant Stichter lifts weights at the Restrepo outpost. (Tim Hetherington/Magnum)

    Visible Ink

    The Army’s Tattoo Crackdown

    The Army is getting tough on tattoos as the wars wind down. Jacob Siegel says the move is about downsizing.

    Tattoo-covered soldiers, their ink showing even in uniform, became a common sight over the last decade, reflecting both changing styles and the relaxed standards used to boost enlistments, but with the wars almost over and the Army preparing to downsize, body art is on the way out.

    Almost immediately after taking his post in 2011, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler began talking about tightening the Army’s uniform and grooming policy. Changes to the rules, which have been a source of speculation and debate among soldiers, have just been confirmed by Chandler to include restrictions on tattoos that will roll back the more lenient guidelines used during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  • Watch This!

    Introducing Hero Project TV

    Anthony Swofford and Phil Klay on why neither candidate addressed 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.

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  • Luke Sharrett / Getty Images

    COMING HOME

    After Afghanistan

    Marine and Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer recounts his rough return from Afghanistan to Kentucky.

    When I got home in December, I felt like I had landed on the moon. Kentucky is pretty much what you think: cheerful bluegrass music like Bill Monroe, rolling countryside, good moonshine, great bourbon, and pretty girls. Greenery, lakes, the creeks and rolling hills, forests, birds, other critters, and all the farms. There’s that genuine friendliness that comes with small towns and close-knit families. You don’t want to act like an asshole because it will get back to your grandmother by supper.

    Something like: “Well, Dakota, I hear you had some words today with that neighbor of Ellen’s sister’s boy.”

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  • Local leaders and former members of the military hold a banner during a news conference marking the end of 'don't ask, don't tell' on September 20, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

    Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

    The DADT Repeal’s First Year

    One year after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gays and lesbians are serving without hurting morale, and openly gay people are changing the conversation, says Patrick Murphy.

    Anthony Loverde should never have been forced to live a lie—certainly not by the country he was risking his life to protect. But for far too long, that’s exactly what happened. 

    A staff sergeant and loadmaster in charge of U.S. Air Force bombs and munitions, Loverde was a model airman. He served with dedication, distinction, and honor. In the military we swear oaths to our country and to one another. We live by codes. Sgt. Loverde took that seriously. 

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  • Barbara Kingsbury of Dana Point, Calif. attaches a note to the tree where three Marines from Camp Pendleton were killed in a high-speed crash early Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. (Leonard Ortiz, The Orange County Register / AP Photo)

    Epidemic

    America’s Finest, Trashed

    Getting drunk used to be a staple of military life. Now it’s a deadly problem, and growing. Jamie Reno reports.

    On Wednesday, a Marine based at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., was charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Sgt. Jared Ray Hale, 25, was seriously injured in a Feb. 14 crash north of the base that killed three of his fellow Marines: Sgt. Jeremiah Callahan, 23, Cpl. Jason Chleborad, 22, and Cpl. Christopher Arzola, 21. According to police, Hale had a blood alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit.

    Prosecutors say Hale went to a bar in nearby Dana Point with his friends and three hours later was driving his Dodge Stratus on a residential street at a high rate of speed when his car crashed into a palm tree. Hale suffered traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, and a broken arm in the crash and remains hospitalized in a military hospital in Northern California. Prosecutors planned to ask that bail be set at $100,000, and an arraignment date will be determined later. Despite the level of alcohol police say they found in Hale’s blood, his attorney insists Hale was not drinking that night, and was in fact the designated driver for the group, who were his subordinates. 

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