Long Term Cost of Combat

PHOTO: Burning Mosque in Iraq

Why We Worry …about our soldiers on the Home Front

I came across this duology of articles from the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home
Casualties of War, Part II: Warning signs

It is worth reading both in full. What struck me is that these are not isolated incidences for just this base – for North Carolina residents we tend to hear quite frequently about PTSD-struck soldiers beating wives and other goings on down at Fort Bragg and I’m sure there are many many other stories, either untold, or dismissed as average criminal behavior, at bases and towns near bases around the US. These are young, potentially productive members of our society, damaged by war and terror, and, if not expressing these difficulties now, may result in problems further down the road in their work and home life.

It also makes me consider the people we are fighting amongst – there is probably a whole generation growing up with some sort of PTSD that will need much more in the way of mental care and may become a difficulty to society decades after the war has ‘ended’ in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. I have not read much about people and how they dealt with the after effects of WWI and WWII, as civilians or combatants (other than fiction). I’m trying to remedy some of that by reading a highly-recommended book titled On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.

Below is the beginning of the first article, Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home.

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraq eight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.


A lot of questions, some related and some unrelated to these articles have been dancing around in my head lately:

  • At what price are we willing to continue to sacrifice our men and women and their futures as well as futures of people unknown in other parts of the world?
  • Do we go to war easily, and without public regard, because it’s easier to with the built up military-industrial complex we have and their need to continue get government money?
  • How much effect does public regard really have over such wars? We went to Afghanistan in 2001, diverted our money and efforts to Iraq, and are still fighting in both arenas, as well as supporting hundreds of bases around the world. No one really discusses it though unless they have family or friends of family directly involved. At weddings you hear of the cousin that wishes he could be there but is serving in Afghanistan or the brother just flown in from Iraq and yet, how much do these people really exist for those outside of more military friendly areas?
  • Further from the topic but in line with economic recovery: what if we did something really drastic like shut down these wars, half our bases abroad, and cut many of the useless Defense Dept projects? What if we took the brilliant minds in engineering and science at the DoD and private companies and asked them, with monetary incentive, to work on the energy and other problems confronting the country? War is profitable for these companies now – what if alternative energy and other crises were as profitable?

Sorry for the drift of the topic but thought it necessary to get some of those thoughts out and hopefully they’ll provide fodder for further discussion and maybe some other articles here.

Flickr photo of a burning Mosque in Iraq from labanex

2 Comments

  1. Chris

    Excellent post. I don’t think our country has really come to grips with the long term consequences of war. We’ll be dealing with the problems (like shell shock) long after the occupations are over.

  2. Clint

    Thoughtful piece, as always. Let me (us?) know how the Grossman book is — sounds interesting.

    “These are young, potentially productive members of our society, damaged by war and terror, and, if not expressing these difficulties now, may result in problems further down the road in their work and home life.”

    Absolutely. It’s remarkable how soldiers in this country are revered in word, but not in deed. They are recruited primarily from the ranks of the poor, sent recklessly abroad and then forced to wait in a backlog when they file claims at the V.A. for treatment.