Feature

The wounded soldiers we’d rather forget

The untold story of these wars briefly burst into view two weeks ago, when Army Sgt. John Russell—on his third tour in Iraq—went into a counseling center for traumatized soldiers in Baghdad and started shooting, said Bob Her

Bob Herbert
The New York Times

It’s fashionable to express gratitude to the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Bob Herbert. When those soldiers come back from the war zones psychologically damaged, though, our nation no longer wants to know them.

The untold story of these wars briefly burst into view two weeks ago, when Army Sgt. John Russell—on his third tour in Iraq—went into a counseling center for traumatized soldiers in Baghdad and started shooting, killing two officers and three soldiers. Russell may be an extreme case, but the fact is that we’re fighting these prolonged wars with an “obscenely small portion of the population” who are sent back “for tour after harrowing tour.” A RAND study has estimated that one in five returning veterans suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s 300,000 men and women who have come home psychically wounded, with lives darkened by persistent nightmares, paranoia, drunkenness, divorce, and even suicide and violence toward others.

If Iraq and Afghanistan truly are vital to our national security, why aren’t more of us serving, and all of us sharing the burden? Instead, we tell ourselves that the soldiers are volunteers, give them a proud salute—and forget them.

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