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The War Comes Home

The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans

AARON GLANTZ
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppjfk
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  • Book Info
    The War Comes Home
    Book Description:

    The War Comes Homeis the first book to systematically document the U.S. government's neglect of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Aaron Glantz, who reported extensively from Iraq during the first three years of this war and has been reporting on the plight of veterans ever since, levels a devastating indictment against the Bush administration for its bald neglect of soldiers and its disingenuous reneging on their benefits. Glantz interviewed more than one hundred recent war veterans, and here he intersperses their haunting first-person accounts with investigations into specific concerns, such as the scandal at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This timely book does more than provide us with a personal connection to those whose service has cost them so dearly. It compels us to confront how America treats its veterans and to consider what kind of nation deifies its soldiers and then casts them off as damaged goods.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94218-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Resource Boxes
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PREFACE: RETURNING HOME FROM IRAQ
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. PART I COMING HOME

    • 1 A SOLDIER COMES HOME
      (pp. 3-15)

      Twenty-seven-year-old Melissa Resta remembers when she first met her husband. When she was growing up near Navy and Air Force bases in rural South Carolina, her father had always told her not to date cops or guys in the military.

      Then Patrick Resta appeared at her door. “He showed up in full Army fatigues after going to drill,” she recalled laughing. “It was a little awkward. I have to say that I giggled every time he put the beret on, but it was him that I loved.”

      Patrick had always loved the military. He’d signed up right after high school,...

    • 2 TRYING TO ADJUST
      (pp. 16-27)

      Some soldiers’ families and social networks can’t survive the homecoming. In 2004, 3,325 Army officers’ marriages ended in divorce—up 78 percent from the year before, and more than three and a half times the number in 2000, before the 9/11 attacks and the bombing of Afghanistan. In 2004, 7,152 enlisted soldiers got divorced, 28 percent more than in 2003 and 53 percent more than in 2000.¹

      No one is keeping track of the number of marriages that fail after Iraq or Afghanistan veterans leave the service, but history is not on their side. Close to 40 percent of Vietnam...

    • 3 A DIFFERENT KIND OF CASUALTY
      (pp. 28-46)

      Since the start of the Iraq War, it’s been fashionable to compare America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq to the war in Southeast Asia thirty years before. As with the Vietnam War, American soldiers face a determined guerilla opponent in unfriendly territory. As with Vietnam, the mission of the war is unclear. Soldiers fight to hold the ground they stand on from an elusive enemy and continue to fight without a clear definition of “victory.” No one on the front lines is really sure when the war is going to end or what they can do to end it.

      “In...

  7. PART II FIGHTING THE PENTAGON

    • 4 THE SCANDAL AT WALTER REED
      (pp. 49-60)

      On Sunday, February 18, 2007, the headline “Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration at Army’s Top Medical Facility” splashed across the front page of theWashington Post.The article, which described unsafe conditions and substandard care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, began with the story of Army specialist Jeremy Duncan who was airlifted out of Iraq in February 2006 with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, “nearly dead from blood loss.”¹

      “Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold,” the article read....

    • 5 COMING TOGETHER
      (pp. 61-68)

      It is possible for wounded soldiers to get both quality and prompt care from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical systems, but getting that care usually means a fight. Families who have received proper care for their sons and daughters report that forcing the government health care bureaucracies to give proper care can be a full time job.

      According to the bipartisan Dole-Shalala Commission (formed to investigate the Walter Reed scandal), 21 percent of active-duty soldiers, 15 percent of reservists, and 24 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had “friends or family [that] gave up a job to...

    • 6 EDUCATION
      (pp. 69-85)

      The Edmundsons’ story is heartwarming. It shows how regular Americans, pulling together, can overcome an indifferent bureaucracy and a Congress and president preoccupied with fundraising dinners with corporate fat cats. For many, Eric Edmundson’s recovery gives hope. For me, it’s also cause for concern.

      The families of American soldiers injured in the line of duty should not have to go, hat in hand, looking for charity. A veteran like Eric Edmundson should not have to depend on the kindness of strangers, but should be cared for as a matter of course. A father like Ed Edmundson should not have to...

    • 7 DRUGS, CRIME AND LOSING YOUR BENEFITS
      (pp. 86-94)

      Thirty-four-year-old S.Sgt. Don Hanks had served fifteen years in the U.S. Army before he spent a year running patrols in the heart of Iraq’s Sunni triangle. He always considered himself a career soldier and planned to spend his life in the service, but when he got back to the Untied States, Hanks was a broken man. He told me he couldn’t continue in the military.

      “I lost friends over there and some of those friends I’d had for my whole frickin’ adult life,” he said. “You’re over there at their houses and barbequing with their kids and you get to...

    • 8 LOSING YOUR BENIFITS—PERSONALITY DISORDER
      (pp. 95-102)

      Eventually, Camp Pendleton put a different spin on Cody Miranda’s case. While the case was pending, Camp Pendleton officials had refused to talk to me. But after Col. Seaton granted leniency, the base’s spokesperson, Maj. Alan Crouch, wrote me an e-mail. In it, he disputed my conclusions and said the colonel’s decision was made “independent of letters or media interest, [and] was taken in the best interest of the Marine Corps and of Pvt Miranda.”

      He added, “The issue of PTSD is very significant, and has the attention of commanders here at Camp Pendleton, across the Marine Corps and, I’m...

  8. PART III FIGHTING THE VA

    • 9 MEET THE BUREAUCRACY
      (pp. 105-117)

      Even when a veteran gets discharged from the military with benefits intact, he or she is hardly free and clear. The veteran still needs to fight to get those benefits: and that means tangling with hostile and cumbersome bureaucracy at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      Twenty-five-year-old Specialist James Eggemeyer injured himself before he even set foot in Iraq—jumping out of a C-130 gunship during training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “I jumped out and the jumpmaster who was holding that line that was wrapped around my arm had to cut the line because I was pretty much being dragged...

    • 10 DIDN’T PREPARE TO TREAT THE WOUNDED
      (pp. 118-128)

      But the Bush administration was never seriously interested in helping veterans. The sorry state of care for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans is not an accident. It’s on purpose. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration fought every effort to improve care for wounded and disabled veterans. At the root of that fight was its desire to hide the true costs of the war in order to boost public support.

      Think back to 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, when leading neo-conservative thinker and Donald Rumsfeld aide Ken Adelman predicted the war would be a “cakewalk.”¹ On...

    • 11 MORE BUREAUCRACY
      (pp. 129-140)

      In addition to fighting for disability benefits, veterans also encounter dismissive, overlapping bureaucracies in attempts to get health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Like the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration, the national network of VA hospitals and clinics seems to have been designed primarily to weed out fraud and save money.

      It should come as no surprise, then, that the amount and extent of care a veteran is entitled to receive from a “service related” injury is derived from a series of complicated formulas. For example, VA policy requires that vets with “service connected” disability ratings of 50 percent,...

  9. PART IV THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL: DRUGS, CRIME, HOMELESSNESS, AND SUICIDE

    • 12 CRIME
      (pp. 143-155)

      Close to midnight on December 18, 1980, thirty-one-year-old Manny Babbitt—high on marijuana and PCP—broke into the Sacramento home of Leah Schendel, a seventy-eight-year-old woman he did not know. He stripped the clothes off the lower half of her body, took a hot iron to her vagina, beat her to death, and robbed her house.

      Then, less than twenty-four hours later, Babbitt struck again. He grabbed a sixty-year-old woman out of her car on her way home. Babbitt dragged her into nearby bushes. He knocked her unconscious, cracked her chest, stole her watch and wedding ring, and fled. The...

    • 13 HOMELESS ON THE STREETS OF AMERICA
      (pp. 156-166)

      The U.S. Vets Westside Residence Hall is a hulking eight-story structure a few blocks from Los Angeles International Airport. The building is an imposing peach-colored concrete and steal behemoth, bringing to mind a Soviet apartment block. The only concession to aesthetics is a small, grass courtyard in the center. On each floor, the small rooms open up onto a walkway overlooking the courtyard. With 525 dormitories, it’s the largest transitional housing and employment center for homeless veterans in the country.

      The center’s outreach director, Ivan Mason, met me at the front door. A large black man with a crew cut...

    • 14 SUICIDE
      (pp. 167-175)

      Dane and April Somdahl own the Alien Art tattoo parlor on Camp Lejeune Boulevard, just outside the sprawling Marine Corps base of the same name in Jacksonville, North Carolina. In an interview from the back of her shop, April told me how her customers’ tastes have changed since George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

      As the war approached, she said, “the most popular tattoos were eagles and United States flags. Those were coming in so often and, you know, everybody was like ‘I gotta get my flag.’”

      Then, a year into the war, the Somdahls...

    • 15 SUICIDE AFTER THE WAR
      (pp. 176-190)

      Military documents like theArmy Suicide Event Reportdo not address the number of veterans who commit suicide after leaving the service—a number that already appears to be exceeding the tally of soldiers who kill themselves while in uniform.

      A November 2007CBS Newsinvestigation found that 120 veterans kill themselves every week; over 5,000 per year. CBS asked all fifty states for their suicide data, based on death records for veterans and nonveterans, and found that veterans were twice as likely to commit suicide. In 2005, CBS found a total of at least 6,256 suicides among those who...

  10. PART V FIGHTING BACK

    • 16 A HISTORY OF NEGLECT
      (pp. 193-207)

      In some ways, the government’s neglect of soldiers after they’ve served and sacrificed is nothing new. Over the last fifty years, a series of presidents have fought successive generations of veterans as they’ve tried to get their rightful benefits. The entire approach of government has not been to help veterans, but to make the benefits of serviceseemattractive to soldiers when they enlist, while extracting as little money as possible from the federal treasury.

      Just ask veterans of the Vietnam War, who had to fight tooth and nail to receive treatment and compensation for cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, brain damage,...

    • 17 WINNING THE BATTLE AT HOME
      (pp. 208-217)

      This leads up to the question, “Why?” Why is it that, generation after generation, Americans who’ve risked their lives for their country return to do battle with their own government? In virtually every generation, politicians repeat again and again that they “support the troops” even as their policies and budget conditions ensure a difficult homecoming.

      Part of the answer seems to be that Washington officials, like Americans in general, prefer to see war as a series of lines and arrows on a map rather than something with consequences for human beings. That’s because when the American public comes face-to-face with...

  11. POSTSCRIPT: THE WAR INSIDE
    (pp. 218-226)

    This book was not easy for me to write. It wasn’t that the journalism was hard. On the contrary, the scandal that is America’s treatment of its veterans is one of the most tragically obvious scandals of our times. Finding the veterans interviewed in this book was easy. Most of them were eager to tell their stories. I’m only sorry that I can’t give them a bigger megaphone.

    No, the difficulties I had writing this book were more personal. It was not easy to face this war on a regular basis, especially when my wife, parents, and most of my...

  12. A NOTE ON SOURCES
    (pp. 227-228)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 229-246)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 247-254)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)