Saturday, August 28, 2010

Broken Warrior

Broken Warrior:
One soldier's struggle
By Carol Smith ~ Seattle Post-Intelligencer

First it was the horrors of Iraq. Now, Rob Withrow is locked in a fight with his own Army superiors. He wants mental health treatment — they want him to face a court-martial
Rob Withrow was a good soldier until he got back from combat duty in Iraq.

Now by his own admission, he is no longer anyone's idea of a model fighting man. He screwed up, and he’s screwed up — an assessment the Army would agree with.

U.S. Army soldier Rob Withrow, photographed among the yellow ribbons tied to the Freedom Bridge across Interstate 5 near Fort Lewis. Since his problems began, Withrow has been reduced in rank from sergeant to private. But that’s where their agreement ends.

Withrow wants mental health treatment. He has tried to commit suicide four times since returning from Iraq. He has been hospitalized in Madigan Army Medical Center’s inpatient psychiatric unit on multiple occasions and is currently on a cocktail of antidepressants and psychoactive drugs. He is a month out of treatment for an addiction to narcotic pain pills that he began taking to “numb out” the month he returned from Iraq and he does not fit the Army’s new criteria for deployment.

But now the Army wants to redeploy him to Iraq, and court- martial him over there. The charges stem from his pattern of not showing up on time, or sometimes at all.

Withrow’s case raises questions about how the Army handles soldiers with psychiatric illnesses, particularly PTSD and depression and whether discipline, or the threat of it, interferes with treatment.

Since his return from Iraq in November 2004, Withrow has received multiple Article 15s — the Army’s form of non-judicial punishment — for disciplinary issues related to “patterns of minor misconduct.” He’s been reduced in rank from sergeant to private.

If he is discharged for misconduct, he will lose benefits for his family, which is already facing a financial crisis related to his demotions.

“I'm not going to candy coat it,” Withrow said. “I'll take responsibility for my part. I have purposefully not gone to work.”

At the time, medical records show he was struggling with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. He repeatedly informed doctors that he was late or absent to work because he was having difficulty waking up, in part because of powerful sedatives prescribed for sleep disturbances.

Still, prosecutors have indicated their intent to court-martial him in Iraq, said Capt. Geoff Deweese, Withrow’s defense attorney.

“I think it would be absurd for them to do that,” Deweese said. “You don't bring someone with this kind of instability to a combat zone and risk harm to himself or others.”

Culture clash?
The military's handling of mental health problems has come under intense scrutiny after an increase in the number of soldier suicides in Iraq in 2005. According to the Army's most recent Mental Health Advisory Team Findings, the suicide rate was 19.9 per 100,000 soldiers in 2005, up from the year before. That review led to new mental health screening policies and more stringent criteria for sending soldiers to war with pre-existing mental health diagnoses.

“Severe mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression, preclude deployment,” Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the Army Surgeon General's Consultant on Psychiatry, said in an e-mail. “Soldiers may not deploy on a variety of types of medication, to include lithium, anti psychotic agents, and anticonvulsant agents.”

But for soldiers such as Withrow, the reality after they return from deployment is that behavior stemming from mental health problems can result in disciplinary action rather than treatment.

The Army does offer several ways to provide psychological help for soldiers and is in the midst of testing a number of new programs to improve resiliency. Soldiers go through an extensive evaluation two to three months after their return to gauge adjustment back to life on the base and to spot any emerging health issues — physical or mental — said Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Piek. The Army also offers confidential help lines and other mental health counseling.

But the military culture, and sometimes the symptoms of depression itself — fatigue and despair — can still make it difficult for soldiers to find and benefit from treatment, said Dr. Jonathan Shay, Boston-based author and psychiatrist who specializes in combat stress injuries.

“What you have is a military that's not set up to care for these soldiers,” said Tod Ensign, attorney and director of Citizen Soldier, a non-profit veterans advocacy group that has represented a number of soldiers with mental health histories who are being charged with misconduct. The Army, under pressure to keep its troops eligible for re-enlistment, discourages treatment that would deem them unemployable, he said.

If a soldier does seek treatment, often in tandem with discipline issues that stem from PTSD or other disorders, the Army’s preference is to discharge them for misconduct or for having pre-existing mental conditions, either of which would reduce the burden on the Veterans Affairs medical care system, Ensign said.

Withrow said when he first tried to get help, he felt like he was getting the runaround. So he gave up.

When his symptoms were bad enough for him to go to the emergency room, he did receive help. But his symptoms persisted, despite treatment. At the same time, he began having trouble in his unit with a commander he perceived as unsympathetic.

Withrow and his lawyer contend that if he had gotten the right help at the appropriate time, his situation never would have escalated.

Withrow says he wanted to stay in the Army. In the midst of all his turmoil, he pleaded to be reassigned to his original battalion in the 3rd Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, which he knew would be going to Iraq again. (It deployed last July.)

“They said they would welcome me back, even knowing everything that was going on,” said Withrow.

Now he wants a discharge on the best terms possible for himself and his family. Instead, he is facing a court-martial.
Born on the Fourth of July
Withrow, 27, was born in Gettysburg, Pa., on the Fourth of July. He enlisted in the Army and headed to boot camp 20 days after graduating high school in June 1997. A field artillery sergeant, he planned to make the military his life's work.

In November 2003, he went to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 35th Field Artillery Regiment. When he returned a year later, he received an Army Commendation Medal for “Exceptionally meritorious service as an air guard during operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Prior to returning from Iraq, he had no disciplinary record and consistently received good-conduct medals, his attorney confirmed. A memorandum from his first sergeant with his old brigade noted, “I would gladly serve with SPC Withrow in combat again because I believe him to be a true Warrior.”

Tall and lean with trimmed dark hair, Withrow is personable and straightforward while relaying his story, but bluish circles under his brown eyes betray fatigue. In addition to his legal and health problems, he is facing bankruptcy and loss of his base housing. He worries frequently out loud about what will become of his wife and three children if he goes back to Iraq. “I don't want them to wind up on the street,” he said.

“When he got back, I could tell he was just different,” said Jenny Withrow, his wife of six years.

Like many of his comrades, he said he had images from Iraq burned into his brain — a mass grave with still decomposing men's bodies layered over women's and children's, fresh bullet holes in his Humvee.

“I would lay in bed at night and wonder if this is the night I get blown up,” he said.

Adjusting to life back home wasn't what he expected. He had left when his baby girl was 4 months old.

“When I got back, my daughter — it’s like she didn't know me,” he said.

Other guys gravitated to alcohol, he said. “I gravitated to opioids. All I wanted to do is be numb.”

In May 2005, short on non-commissioned officers, the Army transferred Withrow to a different unit. But he didn't click with his new command and missed the soldiers he had deployed with. “We were like family,” he said. His depression worsened and he started having difficulty waking. He began showing up at the ER with problems breathing from panic attacks. In August 2005, he was diagnosed with PTSD as well as depression and anxiety.

He was also late reporting to work on a number of occasions.

Instead of recommending him for mental health treatment, however, he was threatened with an Article 15 — a demotion. “They said fix your issues, or we'll take your stripes,” Withrow said.

At his request, the Army did switch him to a different battery for a fresh start in September 2005. But the second day with that unit, he woke late again. He said that the night before, he laid in bed and contemplated killing himself.

Distraught, he first tried to cut his wrists. He then tried to drive straight into a tree at full speed with his seat belt off. He swerved at the last possible moment, he said.

“I drove myself straight to the ER instead,” he said.

He was admitted to the psychiatric ward and stayed four days before being discharged to full duty, with the understanding he would go through a two-week outpatient behavioral health program.

His commander picked him up from the hospital and offered him a chapter discharge “nice and quiet,” but Withrow, who had put in nearly nine years, wasn't ready to give up the Army.
The scope of the problem
Estimates of the number of soldiers who suffer from PTSD and mental problems vary, but most experts agree that the nature of the fighting in Iraq sets up soldiers for psychological trauma.

According to Ritchie of the Surgeon General's Office, an estimated 15 to 17 percent of deployed soldiers experience PTSD and 23 percent experience other behavioral health problems. Others put the numbers higher.

According to a study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine, nearly one-third (31 percent) of 103,788 veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan were diagnosed with mental health or psychological problems upon their return.

The Surgeon General's Office indicated about 11 percent of soldiers who have returned receive mental health diagnoses.

For Withrow, as his mental anguish grew, his problems with his commanders intensified.

“If I were his commander, I'd be frustrated with him as well,” said Pewees, who has also worked as a prosecutor.

At the end of March, Withrow was informed he would deploy this week with the 50th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division back to Iraq.

As part of predeployment screening, an Army psychiatrist specified his “symptoms are not stable” and indicated he should have “no access to weapons or ammunition, no exposure to combat situations, no exposure to casualties, and was not recommended for deployment.”

The issue of whether to send him to Iraq for a court-martial is still pending

Friday, August 27, 2010

Written by AW Schade: Vieatnam War Veteran

Demons' Of War Are Persistent [my Story Of Prolonged Ptsd]

The Demons’ of War are Persistent

My name is Schade: I am a Vietnam Veteran with PTSD

Forty years have passed since my deployment as a combat Marine in Vietnam. Like many Veterans’ of war, the ‘Demons’ have persisted to haunt me over a lifetime of tears, altered persona, and secretive fears. The purpose of this story is to help Veterans of all eras recognize, there is no longer a need to fight the ‘Demons of War’ alone. Today, the Veterans Administration and civilian medical communities understand the psychological transformation that haunts Veterans of war. It is no longer a dishonor, nor are you less of a warrior if you seek medical assistance from within or outside the Military. It has taken me more than two years to complete this personal message. It forced me to muster memories of my past, albeit grudgingly, and glance back through the cloak of shadows I have fought alone for so many years.

Therefore, please take a few minutes to read this story – before your future becomes a reflection of mine, and thousands of other Veterans past. For the ‘Demons of War’ will intensify in your mind; and if not confronted early their determination to control your way of thinking will persist throughout your lifetime. Until, they eventually imprison your soul.

"Friends and family gather to celebrate another joyful holiday. Nonetheless, encircled in the cheerful atmosphere I am often melancholy, as vivid memories of lost friendships and battlefield carnage randomly seep from the vulnerable partition of my mind; a secret place I concocted decades ago to survive in society. Thoughts I silently struggle to keep inaccessible for fear of unleashing the worst of wars' nightmares, which continue to blockade my endeavors to reminisce of the innocence and joy of my pre-war past.
Although this story is of one warrior, it pertains to countless more. For entrenched within our spirit, humanity has sought expedient motives to send the young to war. My pledge to God, Country, and Marine Corps was Forty years ago, or more. At eighteen, like many others, I adorned the timeless stench of death and carnage, in the jungles of Vietnam.
As a young unproven warrior, I consented willingly to the ancient rules of war. Too naive to understand the twisted “Demons‟ of War” had already begun a lifelong quest for possession of my soul.
My journey began as many others, a bus ride to New York’s legendary Induction Center at 39 White Hall Street. We went through lines of examinations, and stood around for hours. We had no choice but notice one another’s bare *****, before we had the chance to learn each other’s name. Nor did we know so many of us would remain together, building deep-seeded bonds of friendships through Parris Island, Camp Pendleton, Okinawa, to the deadly battles in the theatre of war - Vietnam.
We argued and fought among ourselves, as brothers often do. Yet, we never lost sight of the bonds we had as friends, United States Marines, and the indisputable commitment we lived by, to always ‘cover each other's back’.
Aware of our destination we partied hard in every port, covering each other’s back in countless bar room brawls. In confidence, we spoke about our hardships, growing-up, family, girlfriends, and future plans. As well, the dreams of going home again and the years of lasting friendships we faithfully agreed to share.
We transferred to a converted WWII aircraft carrier, which carried helicopters not jet planes, to transverse the coast of Vietnam to deploy by helicopter into combat zones from the DMZ, DaNang and the outer fringes of Saigon.
Within sight of land, we heard the roar of artillery and the familiar crackling of small arms fire. We loaded into helicopters to descend into the confrontation. With ambivalence, we assured ourselves that we were young, invincible warriors eager to engage in the battle. Indoctrinated in training, we knew the South Vietnamese people needed us, as we found many of them did. Our mission was to save the lives of the innocent and banish the enemy into Hell.
The helicopters plunged from their soaring formation to hover a few feet off the ground where we nervously leapt, some fell, into the midst of heated battle. The enemy was ready and sprung a deadly assault upon us. I was unaware that was the moment my psyche began to change, as I became engrossed in the shock, fear and „adrenaline rush‟ of battle.
It was surreal! Nevertheless, not the time to ponder the finality of killing another human being, the sight of friends shot dead, the rationale behind the illusionary ethics of war, or absorbing the inherent fury of men slaughtering one another. Nor, was it time to grapple with the thoughts of Demon seeds being sown.
When the killing ceased and the enemy withdrew, I remained motionless, exhausted from the fighting. With only a moment to think about what occurred, shock, hate and anger surrendered to the gratitude of being alive. However, time was not a luxury. I had to find out which brothers did or did not survive.
As I turned to view the combat zone, I witnessed the reality of war; dreams, friendships and plans are fleeting thoughts for combatants.
We knelt beside our brothers, some dead, many wounded and screaming in pain – while a few lay silently dying. AsI moved about the carnage, I noticed a lifeless body, face down, and twisted abnormally in jungle debris. I pulled him gently from the tangled lair, unaware of the warrior I had found. Masked in blood and shattered bones, I was overwhelmed with disgust and primal obsession for revenge, as I realized the warrior was my mentor, hero and friend.
Ishouted at him, as if he were alive: “Gunny you can’t be dead, you fought in WWII, and Korea. Wake up! Wake up Marine; I need you to fight beside me!” Tears flowed down my face as I held him close and whispered he would not be forgotten. I placed him gently in a “body bag‟, and slowly pulled the zipper closed above his face, engulfing him in darkness.
Our extraordinary brothers, Navy Corpsmen, worked frantically to salvage traumatized bodies. We did our best to ease the pain of the wounded, as they prayed to „God Almighty‟. “With all my heart I love you man,” I told each friend I encountered. However, some never heard the words I said, nor aware of the survival guilt inside me.
When our mission was completed, we flew by helicopter from the jungle to safety on the ship. Yet, none of us rested; we stayed up most of the night remembering faces and staring at empty bunks of the friends who were not there. I prayed the sun rose slowly to delay the forthcoming ceremony of the dead.
Early the next morning we stood in military formation on the aircraft carrier's deck; temporarily suppressing my emotions as I stared again upon the dead. Rows of military caskets, identical in design with an American flag meticulously draped over each of them, made it impossible to distinguish which crates encased the closest friends of mine.
AsTAPS were played, tears descended from my eyes uncontrolled, and for the first time I grasped, I never had the chance to say goodbye. I pledged speechlessly to each of them that they would not be forgotten; a solemn promise I would fail to keep. Unknowing that in time I would force myself to suppress all memories of Vietnam and my past. The lone option which made most sense to me, if I was to restrain the demons' and live a somewhat normal life.
Combat is vicious, rest is brief, but destroying the enemy was our mission. We fought our skillful foes in many battles, until they or us, were dead, wounded, or withdrew when overwhelmed.
Engaging enemy troops in formidable battles was horrific. Even so, memories of ‘guerrilla’ warfare in jungles and villages were equally, if not more, agonizing to accept or build psychological boundaries around. Nonexistent lines of demarcation, the constant struggle to identify which Vietnamese were friend or foe, and the tormenting acknowledgement that a woman or child might be an enemy combatant that had to be dealt with accordingly, was often overwhelming.
Weary, Iwas not aware of the progressive change in my demeanor. In time, I adjusted emotionally to contend with the atrocities and finality of war. I acquired the stamina to endure the stench of death, eliminate enemy combatants with little or no remorse, suppress memories of fallen companions, shunned forming new deep-rooted friendships, and struggled to accept the feasibility of a loving Lord.
Iwas a warrior who led others in battle. Yet, never taught to recognize the ‘Demons’ of War’. Nor, aware the battle for my mind and soul had been set in motion.
My tour of duty complete, I packed minimal gear and left the jungle battlefields of Vietnam for America. Never turning to bid farewell or ever again wanting to smell the pungent stench of death and fear. Within seventy-two hours I was on the street I left fourteen months before; a street untouched by war, poverty, genocide, hunger or fear. I was home – yet, alone. Aged psychologically beyond my 19 years and emotionally confused, I had to adjust immediately, from a slayer, to a so-called civilized man.
Except for family members and several high school friends, returning home from Vietnam was demeaning for most Veterans. There were no bands or cheers of appreciation from the country so many gave their lives to serve. Instead, many were shunned and ridiculed for fighting in a war that our government assured us was a crucial and honorable cause.
Yet, family, friends and even myself, never truly understood the changes that transformed me in fourteen months from a teenage boy, to a battle hardened man.
Iwas not able to engage in trivial conversations; nor, take part in adolescent games many friends still played. For them, life did not change and the realism of struggle was a job, or the unbearable pressures of college. It did not take long to realize they would never understand, there is no comparison between homework, and carrying a dead or dying man.
The media played their bias games, downgrading the military and never illuminating the thousands of Vietnamese saved from mass execution, rape, torture, or other atrocities of a brutal Northern regime. Nor, did they highlight the stories of American heroes’ who gave their lives, shattered bodies and emotional self-sufficiency to save innocent people caught in the clutches of a controversial war.
For years, my transition back to society was unclear, as I struggled against unknown Demons and perplexing social fears. Iabandoned searching for surviving comrades or engaging in conversations of Vietnam. Moreover, I fought alone to manage recurring nightmares, in a cerebral chamber I code-named - Do not open, horrors, chaos and lost friends from Vietnam.
However, suppressing dark memories is often not to be. As random sounds, smells, or even words unleash nightmares, depression and seepage of the bitterness, I still fight to keep locked inside me.
Today, my youth has long since passed me by and middle age is drifting progressively behind. Still, unwelcome metaphors and echoes of lost souls seep through the decomposing barrier I fabricated in my mind, so many years ago. Vivid memories of old friends, death, guilt and anger sporadically persevere.
No end, no resolution, nor limitations to a time, demon voices that began as whispers, have intensified over decades in my mind. “Help me buddy!” I still hear them scream, as nightmares joust me from my slumber. I wake and shout, “I’m here! I’m here my friend”, and once more envision their ghostly, blood soaked bodies.
Even today, I frequently wonder if more Marines would be alive, had I fought more fiercely to reach them, before so many of them died. “Ihad to kill!” I tell myself, as visions of lost friends and foe hauntingly reappear at inappropriate times. Guilt consumes my consciousness as I question why I had, and they did not survive. More dreadful, however, is the conflicting torment I feel when I acknowledge to myself - I am thankful it was them, and not I.
This story has one purpose, to extend a helping hand. Regardless of the wars you fought, your memories are similar to mine and mine to yours.
To all past and current warriors, I rise to applaud your valiant stand. Nonetheless, to control War’s Demons takes time, and the battle is much harder should you choose to challenge them alone. I never realized how swift the demons had matured. Disguised and deep-rooted; I thought anxiety, loneliness, depression, alcohol binges, nightmares and altercations, were traits necessary to be a man.
Do not wait for medical assistance, as older Veterans had to do. Far too many Veterans were less fortunate than me, and succumbed, unknowingly to the Demons’ stealth assault of suicide, hate, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and the obscurity of solitude.
PTSDis real my friends, and easily recognizable. More important, if not confronted early it will shape your future and relationships with your spouse, children, family, associates and career.
Remember, you will always be warriors’ and heroes’ to us all. However, do not fool yourself, without help from the VA, outside professionals, Peer groups such as,,, and many more can be found on the internet. If not, the “Demons of War‟ will overpower you - and ultimately acquire ownership of your soul."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I went to lunch one day and entered the “twilight zone” I’ve been trying to escape from ever since.

On May 3, 1991 I was working as a floating/relief receptionist at a law firm and going to school at night. If you’d asked me then where I’d be in ten years I would’ve thought I’d be done with undergrad, done with law school and working as an associate in a law firm, on the track to partnership. But here I am and I still have not even finished my bachelor’s degree because of what happened to me that day.

The short version is: 2 days after my 22nd birthday (May 1, 1991) I went shopping on my lunch hour to buy something to wear to a birthday party that weekend (a friend at work had a birthday too). I went to Carson Pirie Scott on State Street in Chicago. The clerk forgot to take a sensor tag off something I bought and they thought I was a shoplifter. I had no idea what was going on until I was almost back at work, five blocks from the store. I didn’t hear any alarm or anything. Two plainclothes guys (who didn’t identify themselves) grabbed me (I thought they were muggers—one grabbed my purse) and beat the shit out of me right there on Michigan Avenue in the middle of a beautiful spring day, at the bus stop at the corner of Michigan & Washington. Everyone who was out to lunch, passing by or waiting for a bus just stood around and watched like it was on TV. No one came to my aid. A tourist or student journalist or somebody, I never found out who, even snapped pictures. Then the police came and took me back to the store, where they hauled me into a small room and handcuffed me to a desk. They interrogated me, went through the contents of my bag and purse, established that I had NOT stolen anything, that it was paid for with MY store credit card, not a stolen one, etc. I thought they would let me go back to work when they realized they’d made a mistake. Instead, they called my employer, told them I’d been arrested at got me fired (when I tried to go back to at least get my belongings from my desk, they treated me like a criminal and I never got everything back). They took a Polaroid of me, told me it would be posted in the security office at their store and that if I ever set foot in any of their stores again I’d be arrested for criminal trespass, despite the fact that I had not DONE anything. Then, instead of letting me go, they put me in a paddy wagon and took me to 11th & State (common criminal lock-up) and literally THREW me in a cell!

They told me I was being charged with battery for RESISTING the two thugs who beat me up ( I later had to have a criminal trial for this, but fortunately the charges were dismissed by the judge, who thought them outrageous, and the record expunged. At no point did anyone read me my rights. They didn’t let me make a call and told me I’d be locked up for at LEAST 24 hours until they checked their records database to make sure I didn’t have a record anywhere else. They also told me I’d have to pay $1,000 bond to get out. All I knew was that I was an innocent, law-abiding citizen and I’d been snatched off the street, beaten an imprisoned and no one knew where I was or what happened to me. I thought that kind of thing only happened in third world countries, and I didn’t know what to expect next. I was afraid they might decide to rape or torture me too, and I wasn’t going to stick around for THAT, so I was about to try killing myself when they finally came and got me out, let! me call my parents. Fingerprinted & mug shot me, then let me go. By that time it was 11:00 p.m. I’d been beaten and traumatized and released late at night in a bad neighborhood. Fortunately a guy I’d dated lived nearby and though he wasn’t home, the doorman knew me and let me stay safe inside the lobby until my parents came to pick me up.

The store declared bankruptcy within the year and I have never gotten any compensation for pain, suffering, lost wages, medical bills, etc. or even an apology or admission of error. For years I tried to get a radio, TV or newspaper to report on what happened to me, but apparently the Carsons stores give everyone so much advertising money that no one will say a word against them.

Over the past ten years I’ve suffered nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, panic attacks, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, paranoia, hypervigilance, extreme startle response, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, suicidal depression, inability to maintain a job, relationship, etc., you name it. These things combined are known as PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is usually associated with Vietnam vets. Though the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is supposed to cover it, I have been fired from several jobs because of it. Every day I go to work in downtown Chicago and am confronted with what I refer to as “the spot where I was killed” (because surely whoever I was until then died that day—with all my hopes, innocence, idealism, ambition, dreams—and what was left was this empty shell, nothing but a caged animal intent on survival) and so many other painful reminders on a several-times a day basis. Every time I walk within eye-shot of that corner, which I have to do !
to get to and from the train to the office, and often when going to lunch, too—it triggers primal, life-and-death panic in me, as it does every time I enter that building and have to walk past security, remembering how I was barred from retrieving my possessions from my old law firm job.

Over the past ten years, excluding temp assignments, I have had fifteen “permanent” jobs, some lasting only a week or a month to a few months, the longest lasting not much more than a year. Only four of these I left by choice; all the others I have been fired from for absenteeism. Inevitably I use up all my sick days on those days when I am afraid to leave the house, and then I am canned. I hate myself for it. I’ve had numerous short relationships, some only one-nighters (though I wanted more). I have lived in thirteen different apartments, twelve in Chicago, one in Minneapolis, and with numerous room-mates/friends/boyfriends. One lasted only a month, the longest will be five years in August (my husband). In short, I’ve had no virtually no stability in any area of my life, at least until my husband came on the scene in 1997. I’m still not sure sometimes why he continues to tolerate me, I feel like such an utter failure as a human being. What with constant firings and !
subsequent ,unemployment/job searches, evictions, breakups and various other crises, I have had neither the money nor the physical or mental energy to finish school, though I would only have a year or so were I to go full-time. I’m afraid to go out places by myself sometimes at all, but especially after dark, so night school is out. I used to work out and walk much more but when you’re afraid to go places, even if you do have a health club membership you rarely go. I’ve become increasingly sedentary and have gradually gained eighty pounds or more (from 160 to 170 when I was working out, going to school and my job in ’91 to 220-230 now). I’m afraid if I don’t lose weight and get in shape I’ll wind up like mom, diabetic amputee, hypertensive, cardio risk, etc., and will die young. But until recently I always thought I’d die by my own hand before any of my bad habits caught up with my body. Now I need to re-evaluate.

For the past eleven months I’ve been going to a trauma survivors group, when I am not too scared to leave home. This week two other women were both were talking about something I had been thinking/writing about recently, the before and after phenomenon. Who we were before anything happened to us, the freedom, effortlessness of existence, the “lightness of being”, joie de vivre, youthful spirit, inquisitiveness, fearlessness, idealism, etc. of children and what it’s like to be robbed of that innocence, to feel heavy, trapped, tense, frightened, closed off, shut down, paranoid, to have every moment be an ordeal, a constant struggle to stay on guard against any and all possible dangers, and how sapping, how deadening that is. I’ve been thinking precisely about this, especially in light of having met someone recently who knew me before (John, the high school boyfriend), someone who does not (yet) know about any of the things that have befallen me since we knew each other last, !
in whose mind I am perhaps still the strong, outgoing, positive, forward-looking, intense, energetic girl he fell in love with when he was a boy and we were young and had our whole lives spread out in front of us like a wonderful, exotic adventure and anything seemed possible. I want to be that person again. Or maybe I am deep down somewhere still. Or maybe she is dead, maybe she was killed completely, utterly and finally that day (almost eleven years ago!) and there is not nor ever will be any hope of resurrecting her. What do I do with this shell that is left behind, and does it contain anything worth salvaging? How did I get to be this jaded, stagnant, stultified? When did life stop being something to look forward to and become only either a struggle to dread facing every day or else an endless grind, drudgery to endure hopelessly until someone or something (maybe myself) ends the misery? How do I try to get back to where I started or at least some mid-point where I ! can see my way clear to a road that looks worth taking? As long as I don’t write back to John, that girl still exists somewhere, held inviolate and pristine, somewhere, somehow, even if only a figment in someone’s mind half a world away...



The Secret US War in Pakistan: BLACKWATER

` This article was written by Jeremy Scahill and his sources. It was printed in The Nation. Thanks, Jeremy for your hard work. theblogmeister

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the premiere counter-terrorism and covert operations force within the military, in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC, and that organization for these types of services."

Blackwater's founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in a recent interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."

"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."

The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi
The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater's presence in Pakistan is "not really visible, and that's why nobody has cracked down on it," said the source. Blackwater's operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. "It's Blackwater via JSOC, and it's a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis." The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. "It's a very rudimentary operation," says the source. "I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It's very bare bones, and that's the point."

Blackwater's work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.

The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater's classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, "The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you're doing is really one military guy to another." Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified "black" operations. "With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above 'secret'--even though you have no business doing so," said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that "do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust," he added. "Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That's exactly what it is: a circle of love." Blackwater, therefore, has access to "all source" reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. "That's how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors," said the source. "We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don't unless they ask."

According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have "conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up," he said, adding, "They have a sizable force in Pakistan--not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way--but to support a legitimate contract that's classified for JSOC." Blackwater's Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT "was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it." Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. "Nobody even gives them a second thought."

The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're operating under a classified mandate."

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. "That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don't know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mental Health in the Field

FORWARD OPERATING BASE BOSTICK, Afghanistan — Sgt. Thomas Riordan didn't want to return to Afghanistan after home leave. He had just fought through a battle that killed eight soldiers, and when he arrived home his wife said she was leaving. He almost killed himself that night.

When his psychologist asked what he thought he should do, Riordan said: Stay in Colorado.

Instead, the military brought Riordan back to this base in the eastern Afghan mountains, where mortar rounds sound regularly and soldiers have to wear flack jackets if they step outside their barracks before 8 a.m., even to go to the bathroom.

Increasingly, the army is trying to treat traumatized soldiers "in theater" – where they're stationed. The idea is that soldiers will heal best if kept with those who understand what they've been through, rather than being dumped into a treatment center back in the States where they'll be surrounded by unfamiliar people and untethered from their work and routine.

However, the policy may serve the military at least as much as the soldiers. Treating soldiers on site makes it easier to send them back into battle – key for a stretched military fighting two wars. It also brings up a host of challenges: Ensuring soldiers get the treatment they need in the middle of war, monitoring those on antidepressants and sleeping pills, and deciding who can be kept in a war zone and who might snap.

"There's not been a lot of studies on those types of interventions," said Terri Tanielian, a military health policy researcher with the RAND Corp. think tank. "There isn't necessarily a magic formula that says who's going to go back and be okay and who isn't."

Riordan's commanders with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry of the Army's 4th Brigade Combat Team say they're doing their best for him by keeping him in Afghanistan. The 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colo. has reason to be particularly conscientious -- Fort Carson came under scrutiny after a string of murders by returned soldiers.

Riordan acknowledges that in-theater treatment has helped a lot of his fellow soldiers, but says it's never been enough at the right time or place for him. Through all the psychologists, psychiatrists, medications and brain scans, he just feels more alone.

In Afghanistan, Riordan cannot go outside the wire because he's considered too unstable. He has no friends in his unit. He goes to a larger base every month or so to meet with his psychologist, who also checks in on him when she's doing helicopter rounds to various outposts.

Story continues below"All my real support is back in the States," he says. "Just to call someone up and say 'Hey, I'm bummed out,' you've got to put on the proper uniform and walk two football fields down to the phones and wait in a line, and then hope that someone answers on the other side."


The 5,000 troops that make up Task Force Mountain Warrior – which includes the Fort Carson soldiers – are served by a psychologist, a psychiatrist and two social workers. Collectively known to soldiers as "Combat Stress" – as in, "I had to go see Combat Stress" – this four-person team makes the rounds to about 30 bases. They arrive after any potential trauma: the death of a soldier, an arduous battle or a large roadside bombing.

The quick-reaction force for mental trauma isn't new – it was in place during the Iraq war. However, military officials in Afghanistan say they're giving more resources for such teams now and making them more active.

Combat Stress showed up in force at Bostick in early October 2009. Insurgents had just launched a devastating attack on two isolated outposts: Keating, where eight soldiers died, and Fritsche, where Riordan was stationed.

The soldiers from both bases were flown to Bostick. At group meetings with Combat Stress, soldiers replayed what they had seen that day. Many went on to individual sessions with counselors.

Riordan said that as soon as the gunfire died down on Oct. 3, he decided the first thing he would do was go see a counselor. He'd had some sessions already in the States, though his treatment had repeatedly been interrupted by deployments.

But by the time he arrived at Bostick on a later flight from Fritsche, the counselors were gone. Two days later, he was out on operations again.

He was called to help Afghan security forces that had been attacked. Just as he returned, Riordan's commander told him to prep for yet another mission. He flipped out.

"Finally I just put my foot down with it and I was like, look, I'm at my wits' end. I'm about to shoot somebody or myself and I need to go talk to someone," Riordan said.

That got every one's attention. He started getting regular counseling. He went on antidepressants – first a combination of Prozac and Paxil, before settling on Effexor.

Still, on home leave in March, Riordan's wife said she wanted a divorce and he locked himself in the bathroom and started swallowing sleeping pills. His wife called the police, who got him out of the bathroom and to a hospital.

"I told them I didn't try to kill myself. I was trying to go to sleep," he said. "What I took wasn't enough to kill myself. But I had enough, and I looked at it and I considered it."

Riordan's understanding is that he is a victim of military bureaucracy. His commanding officer, Capt. Stoney Portis, "said something about paperwork," Riordan recalled.

Portis said the difficulty of getting permission to have a soldier stay home after leave was a factor, but not the deciding one.

"Look at the logistics of it: It's not approved. It's currently not even an option to leave him back there, because he was on orders to go on R&R and come back," Portis said.

Portis said he wanted to give Riordan the chance to finish deployment, and that he could get the same level of care on the base as back in the States. Now Riordan meets with a counselor at Bostick once a week and has flown to a larger base in the eastern city of Jalalabad twice for three-day intensive counseling sessions. On Bostick, he tracks weapons inventory, which he calls a fake job with only two days worth of work for him to do in a month.

Riordan said he planned to get out of the military upon returning to the United States. It's not for him.


Riordan's is an extreme case. But Combat Stress also treated others who fought that day to get them back into the field.

Spec. Ty Carter said he had trouble psyching himself to go out on missions after the Oct. 3 attack. As he prepared his gear, painful thoughts would come to mind. An ache mixed with nausea hit his stomach.

"I would pause, and stare into nothing as thoughts of my daughter growing up without a father, my mother and father at a funeral, and all the other things that would happen filled my head," he said.

He went for counseling, and was given Ambien to sleep. He felt the result within days. When his truck hit a bomb, his hands would usually shake, but this time he wasn't even nervous.

He kept going on missions, and it seemed to help.

"As soon as I got outside the wire it all stopped," he said. "The stomach pain and nausea, thoughts of death and everything else. I would be so focused on the mission that it would be all I saw. After the mission some of the thoughts and feelings would return. But not on the mission."

Medicating soldiers in war brings up a host of difficulties not faced by doctors back in the States. The brigade psychiatrist, Dr. Randal Scholman, said he finds himself making more informal or nontraditional diagnoses. Deployed soldiers are in a particularly stressful environment, and often it's hard to tell if a problem is temporary, he said.

The most common drugs he prescribes are sleeping pills, followed by antidepressants. Often, he gives a soldier Prozac or Paxil to treat what he and his colleagues call "combat operational stress reaction." The disorder – which is not formally recognized – includes symptoms like sleep problems, irritability and propensity to anger. Soldiers describe it as being "on edge, keyed up, jumpy, things like that," he said.

Through trial and error, they've found that antidepressants help calm soldiers down enough to stay and finish their tours. In the three months he has been with the brigade, only two soldiers have had to be evacuated because of psychological issues, he said.

"My mission here is to keep people on mission, keep people in the fight, keep people in the theater as opposed to having them air-evaced out," Scholman said.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team started periodic mental health reviews with this tour. Commanders were asked to evaluate their soldiers' risk of having serious psychological problems by filling out a form with 19 yes-or-no questions. It is filled out across the brigade: platoon sergeants assess soldiers, company commanders assess platoon sergeants, and up the chain.

This questionnaire has been filled out twice during the 4th brigade's year-long deployment: once in December – six months in, just after a particularly bad battle – then in April as the troops prepared to go home.

The soldiers are labeled red, amber or green to indicate priority for treatment. "Red" soldiers have mandatory immediate counseling. "Amber" soldiers have mandatory counseling but not as urgently.

In December, of 3,737 soldiers evaluated, 2.2 percent were red and 16.2 percent were amber. When they re-evaluated the troops recently, the number of red had dropped to less than one percent, but the number of amber had increased to just under 25 percent.

About 50 of the 500-odd soldiers at Bostick are on antidepressants, said Capt. Cheri Ponce, the physician's assistant. Others are on sleep aids or drugs to help them stop smoking. The list of drugs she can prescribe is much shorter than in the States because just about anything with a high risk of suicide is off limits, Ponce said.

"We don't need any other triggers," she explained. She also tries to avoid long-acting sleep medications because soldiers can't take them if they might be called for a mission in the middle of the night.

Antidepressants take effect slowly, so soldiers usually don't have to be taken out of their typical rotation of patrols and work. But some superior officers are still uneasy about soldiers fighting while on antidepressants.

Sgt. Maj. Rob Wilson, the senior noncommissioned officer in the 61st Squadron, was shocked by the idea that 50 of his soldiers could be on antidepressants and yet were not blocked from going outside the wire. Only seven of the squadron's soldiers were labeled "red" in the recent survey, including Riordan.

But Wilson also said these soldiers wouldn't necessarily have fared better in the States. The soldiers from the Oct. 3 attack who were doing the worst were two men sent back to Fort Carson because of injuries, Wilson said.

"Both of them got back to the rear and started having issues. One turned to drugs. One turned to violence," he said. "They had nobody to relate with, and they weren't the best of friends to begin with."

This is a story from The Huffington Post, a good collection of stories about our military and PTSD. I did not, however, find the author of this article. I hope it helps in some way. theblogmeister


I appreciate all comments. I received a comment from a reader stating that I was plagiarizing. If you will notice, all of my writings I sign, theblogmeister, at the end. In some cases I thank the writer for the story. The website automatically write at the end of all posts, posted by theblogmeister. All of my writings are typed, the blogmeister, at the end. I may have a story where I write the opening comments, then type, theblogmeister. After that I will paste a good story on the subject of PTSD. To be more accountable in the future and have less confusion, I will thank, by name, all contributors to my posts. I do not want credit when it is not due. Thank you for your observation. I wish you would have left your name so I could thank you, personally. Please, do not stop reading. Thanks theblogmeister

My Story

When I first started this website it was for therapeutic reasons.I, too, suffer from PTSD for over 30 years. It began as a way to document my nightmares and there were many. Some were horrific while others were confusing. All of them are available to read. You just have to go back a ways.
I had never heard of PTSD until my primary care doctor at the VA medical Center, in Birmingham, AL. suggested that I may be suffering from the disease. I was referred to the psychiatric department for outpatient counseling. I did not tell the complete truth about my past for fear of criminal prosecution and I really did not believe in their diagnosis. How could something that happened in 1978 affect me today? I just did not buy it. Not possible.
In 2002, I was committed to the psychiatric ward at the VA hospital in Tuscaloosa, AL. I spent 3 weeks on a lock down ward and was diagnosed with the disease, given therapy, medication, and released to continue my prescribed regime. I still had not told the doctors what really happened so long ago. Close, but not the unvarnished truth.
I began having nightmares that affected my waking life. I had recently gotten married and my wife suggested I try to be admitted in an inpatient program for PTSD, exclusively, in Tuscaloosa. My symptoms were becoming so bad that I told my therapist the whole truth. He immediately stopped me and told me that he was bound by regulations to tell his superiors. He asked me if I was ready to tell him and be prepared for the consequences, if any, that may come. I had been harboring this secret for over 30 years and I could not bear it alone any longer. It had ruled my life and almost killed me. I was ready!
After I told my story the relief I felt was indescribable. The weight I had been carrying was lifted. It was absolutely amazing. My therapist told me not to repeat my story to anyone until he talked with the Chief of Psychiatry and the criminal division of the military. I did not care what the outcome would be. I was free!
A week after I told my story I was called in to the PTSD Program Director's office, who just so happened to be my counselor, and was given the news. After speaking with the Chief of Psychiatry, the hospital administrator, and the criminal division of the Air Force, I was given authority to tell my story in group or individual sessions without fear of criminal prosecution. And Tell I Did! The more I told it the better I felt. I was very discreet about when and who to tell but it sure felt good! My blog became valid once I told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.I have tried to help others as I help myself. I began seeing a psycho-therapist who specialized in hypnosis. The better I felt the less I felt about writing of my experiences. I began to find stories and put them in my blog, never taking credit for another's work. I continue to do just that. If there comes a time to talk about myself, I will not hesitate. I can only keep what I have by giving it away and I hope you will continue to read my blog. You are the reason I write and I want to hear from you but most of all, I want to say, Thank You. theblogmeister

Iran's Growing Role In Afghanistan

What has you more worried, Afghanistan, or Iran? Iran is becoming a bigger player in this war since the war on terror started in 2001. I would be safe in assuming that Iran is a little nervous having the greatest military power engaging in combat operations on both sides of their border. That is why it doesn't surprise me that Iran is funneling weapons and jihadist across its border into Afghanistan. I want to thank Bill Roggio for writing this major story.

Taliban commander linked to Iran, al Qaeda targeted in western Afghanistan. August 20, 2010

Coalition and Afghan special forces teams killed six Taliban fighters and three civilians during a raid yesterday that targeted a known Taliban commander who is linked to senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and aids foreign fighters entering Afghanistan from Iran.

The raid took place in the district of Pusht-e Rod in Farah province, along the border with Iran. The target was a "a Taliban foreign fighter facilitator" who is "known to traffic foreign fighters and weapons from Iran and associate with senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership," ISAF stated in a press release. Afghan police claimed that Taliban leaders Mullah Malik and Mullah Joma Khan were killed in the fighting.

The combined special forces teams tracked a vehicle carrying Taliban fighters in the district and engaged the fighters as they dismounted. An air weapons team engaged the Taliban fighters, which caused the truck, which appears to have been carrying homemade explosives, to detonate. Six Taliban fighters were killed and an unknown number were captured by the ground team. A woman and two children were also reported killed during the fighting.

Earlier, on Aug. 5, ISAF and Afghan forces killed Sabayar Saheb, another "Taliban logistics and foreign fighter facilitator," during a raid in Pusht-e Rod. The combined force found an AK-47 and Iranian money on Saheb.

Farah province is a known haven for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, and is a main transit point for foreign fighters and Iranian aid flowing into Afghanistan. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Pusht-e Rod, Balu Barak, and Gulistan; or three of Farah's 11 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. ISAF has reported on five raids in Farah against al Qaeda-linked cells this year.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps - Qods Force has tasked the Ansar Corps with aiding the Taliban and other terror groups in Afghanistan. Based in Mashad in northeastern Iran, the Ansar Corps operates much like the Ramazan Corps, which supports and directs Shia terror groups in Iraq. [See LWJ report, Iran's Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq.]

On Aug. 6, 2010, General Hossein Musavi, the commander of the Ansar Corps, was one of two Qods Force commanders added to the US Treasury's list of specially designated global terrorists for directly providing support to the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda is known to facilitate travel for its operatives moving into Afghanistan from Mashad. Al Qaeda additionally uses the eastern cities of Tayyebat and Zahedan to move its operatives into Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Return to Jihad.]

Background on Iran's covert support for the Taliban

For years, ISAF has stated that Taliban fighters have conducted training inside Iran, with the aid of the Qods Force, the special operations branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. As recently as May 30, 2010, former ISAF commander General Stanley McChrystal said that Iran is training Taliban fighters and providing them with weapons.

"The training that we have seen occurs inside Iran with fighters moving inside Iran," McChrystal said at a press conference. "The weapons that we have received come from Iran into Afghanistan."

In March 2010, a Taliban commander admitted that Iran has been training teams of Taliban fighters in small unit tactics. "Our religions and our histories are different, but our target is the same — we both want to kill Americans," the commander told The Sunday Times, rebutting the common analysis that Shia Iran and Sunni al Qaeda could not cooperate due to ideological differences.

Background on known Taliban commanders who work with Iran's Qods Force

In recent years, the US military has targeted several Taliban commanders in western Afghanistan who are known to receive support from the Qods Force.

On July 16, US and Afghan forces killed Mullah Akhtar, a Taliban commander in Farah province, and several of his fighters, during a raid on a training camp used by foreign fighters. Akhtar "had close ties with Taliban and al Qaeda senior leaders," ISAF stated in a press release. He "was responsible for arranging training for foreign fighters from Iran and helped resolve disputes between militant networks." Intelligence officials also told The Long War Journal that Akhtar was closely tied to the Qods Force.

Another Iranian-linked Taliban commander is Mullah Mustafa, who operates in Ghor province. The US military said Mustafa commands more than 100 fighters and receives support from Iran's Qods Force. ISAF thought it killed Mustafa in a June 9, 2009, airstrike in a rural area in Ghor, but Mustafa later spoke to the media and denied reports of his death.

Ghlam Yahya Akbari is yet another Taliban commander who has worked closely with the Qods Force. He served as a commander in Herat province. Akbari, who was known as the "Tajik Taliban," claimed to operate more than 20 bases in Herat and boasted of having more than 600 fighters under his command. He facilitated the movement of foreign fighters, or al Qaeda, from Iran into Afghanistan, and helped them transit to the battlefields in Helmand and Kandahar. Akbari was killed in a special operations raid in Herat in October 2009. Samihullah, Akbari's replacement, has even closer ties to al Qaeda and continues to facilitate the movement of al Qaeda fighters from Iran into Afghanistan.

Prior to the fall of Mullah Omar's regime in late 2001, Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, the former Taliban governor of Herat province who is currently in US custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, served as the Taliban's liaison to Iran. Khairkhwa "was present at a clandestine meeting in October of 2001 between Taliban and Iranian officials in which Iran pledged to assist the Taliban in their war with the United States," according to documents from the US government’s unclassified files on Gitmo detainees. According to one document, he met with Hizb-i-Islami-Gulbuddin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Hekmatyar, who runs one of the three largest Taliban-linked insurgent groups in Afghanistan, is also closely linked to Iran. He was backed by the Iranians during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, and sheltered inside Iran from 1996 to 2002, under the care of the IRGC.

Monday, August 23, 2010

One Soldiers Tragedy

This is a soldier's story that has been told many times, by many soldiers. It is a tragedy that our military has been dealing with since before Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us pray for all soldiers at home or abroad. They all need our prayers. theblogmeister

James Weigl had two disqualifying medical conditions and never should have been in the Army. He fell apart after coming home from Iraq and killed himself last March - one of a rising number of vets to commit suicide. His family wonders if his death could have been avoided. A look at his life and what happened.

A soldier's story
As suicides in the military hit peak, James Weigl's tragedy hits home

Nov. 23, 2009


By the numbers
140: Active-duty Army soldiers took their own lives in 2008.

20.2: Suicide rate per 100,000 for active-duty-Army soldiers, the highest ever.

22.9: Suicide rate among veterans age 20 to 24 per 100,000 in 2007 - four times higher than non-veterans in the same age bracket.

70%: Percentage of veterans who seek psychological help who do so someplace other than the Veterans Administration.

85,000: Number of calls received by a suicide hotline for veterans since mid-2007.

Source: Veterans Administration, U.S. Army

Here are some resources for veterans and others when it comes to suicide, as well as warning signs and what to do to help.

Where to turn if you are feeling suicidal or if someone you know is:

Suicide hotline: (800) 784-2433
Veterans in an emotional crisis, can also call (800) 273-TALK
Or veterans can go to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline Web site
Signs to look for if you are afraid someone might be suicidal:

The person appears depressed, sad, tearful, has poor sleep habits, poor appetite, is sounding hopeless.
The person threatens suicide or talks about wanting to die.
Changes in behavior, appearance, mood.
Abuses drugs or alcohol.
Has experienced significant loss in their lives.
Deliberately injures self.
Starts giving away possessions.
What to do: These suggestions from the Veterans Administration spell out the acronym AIDLIFE:

Ask: Are you thinking of hurting yourself today?
Intervene immediately.
Don't keep it a secret.
Locate help.
Inform someone else.
Find someone to stay with the person. Don't leave the person alone.
Expedite: Get help immediately.
Kathy and Mike Weigl's hearts were pounding as they drove furiously from Chicago to Cedarburg to check on their son that night late last winter.

James Weigl, a sweet, goofy guy who surprised his friends by joining the Army in 2003, had tried to kill himself shortly after his tour in Iraq ended, and now - his service over - he was talking again of wanting to die.

His family began to worry about him in 2006, when he came home on leave, agitated and angry, scared and unable to focus.

Over the next three years, the Weigls tried everything they could think of to get help for their son. They lined up doctors' appointments, met with his Army commanders, called politicians. Kathy Weigl even took a class in suicide prevention.

Now, on the night of March 17, they were racing to Cedarburg.

"I knew the minute we turned onto his block that James was dead," Kathy Weigl said.

They found him dangling from the garage rafters, an electrical cord around his neck. He was 25.

Weigl's death is part an alarming epidemic of suicides among those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year, the official number of suicides by active-duty Army soldiers hit an all-time high at 140. In the first half of this year, the Army reported 129 confirmed or suspected suicides - more than the number of soldiers who died from hostile action during that time.

Suicide by veterans is tougher to pin down, largely because more than 70% of them get their psychiatric care through providers other than the Veterans Administration. But VA officials say suicide is a growing problem.

The Nov. 5 shootings by an Army psychiatrist that killed 13 at Fort Hood in Texas have raised even more concern about the psychological toll of the wars, now over eight years running.

Weigl's case shows how the military needs to do a better job at every step - from questions recruiters ask those enlisting to the kind of psychological care offered to active soldiers to record-keeping for veterans.

The Army has declined to comment on Weigl's death. But a review of his military and medical files - painstakingly gathered by his mother and provided to the Journal Sentinel - shows mistakes were made and several warning signs were missed.

Weigl never should have been in the military in the first place.

He had at least two conditions that would have disqualified him - an anaphylactic reaction to vaccines that caused his throat to close and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Both are spelled out as disqualifying conditions in the Army's Standards of Medical Fitness.

Weigl was discouraged from getting psychiatric care while in the Army, even after he attempted to kill himself in 2007. His medical records at the VA's Zablocki Medical Center were incomplete and consistently inaccurate. They are riddled with wrong birth dates, a wrong address and incorrect phone numbers. A VA psychologist confused Weigl with a veteran who had been incarcerated.

However, Weigl was getting more psychiatric treatment than ever at the time of his death. In fact, he was at the VA for two appointments the day he died, including a class run by a psychiatric nurse trained in suicide prevention.

"He got a lot of care in a short amount of time," said Jon Lehrmann, a VA psychiatrist who reviewed Weigl's case to see if mistakes were made at the center.

Suicide is excruciatingly unpredictable. So, it is impossible to say if Weigl's death was preventable.

His story offers a rare, intimate and intense look at how even little errors can lead to tragic consequences.

"We need to look at cases like this so that we can do a better job," said Michael McBride, a psychiatrist who joined the Army in 2001 and served in Iraq last year. "The military doesn't encourage you to get help or recognize your problems."

McBride is the post-traumatic stress disorder leader at Milwaukee's VA.

"We train soldiers how to go to war," he said, "but we don't train them how to come home from it."

Good kid, great soldier
Growing up in Cedarburg, Weigl was a prankster, a fun-loving kid who used to write different names on his nametag and speak in foreign accents to confuse customers at the Piggly Wiggly in Cedarburg where he worked. He sang and played the guitar with his big brother, Mike.

His friends still laugh at the time he mooned a bowling alley full of people. Weigl used to tell people his middle name was "Danger." His friends called him "Pickle."

Weigl wanted to be a special education teacher. But when reports came out declaring that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq - reports that would later prove to be false - Weigl told his friends and family he felt compelled to fight. He enlisted in October 2003.

Afraid that his potentially deadly reactions to vaccines would keep him out of the military, Weigl forged his mother's signature on a note, claiming that he was allergic to penicillin but nothing else.

"They put him up in a hotel in Milwaukee for the 24 hours after he signed up," Mike Weigl said. "We didn't even know he'd signed up before it was too late to back out."

Recruiters did not note Weigl had been diagnosed at the age of 4 as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that was so pronounced he had attended special classes in school. Nor did they ask Weigl about a family history of mental illness. His mother and other close family members suffer from treatment-resistant depression. Studies show family history of depression is a strong indicator of vulnerability for the disease.

Though they worried about their son, the Weigls were proud of his decision to serve.

"We're a military family," said Mike Weigl Sr., who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, as did two of his brothers.

James Weigl was trained at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as a technical inspector of unmanned aerial vehicles and given special intelligence clearance reserved for more elite soldiers.

In August, 2005, Weigl was sent to Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division. They were stationed in Taji, 12 miles northwest of Baghdad.

E-mails Weigl sent home at the time show how dangerous that place could be.

"Sorry I kept everyone at the house waiting for me," he wrote on Dec. 12, 2005. "I couldn't call because the base was on (a communication) blackout. We have that whenever a Taji soldier is killed. We go on blackout until the family is notified."

About a month later, ABC-TV anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman were badly injured by a roadside bomb near Taji.

McBride, the Milwaukee VA psychiatrist, said soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan face a special, unrelenting stress because of the random nature of bombs there.

"It's not like conventional warfare," he said. "Over there, soldiers know that a bomb can go off anywhere at any time from any place."

By all accounts, Weigl was a great soldier. He received four medals, including one commendation that read, "Weigl's can-do attitude positively affected the entire site."

"J.W. was awesome," said Shern Smith, who served as Weigl's sergeant in Iraq. "When no one else wanted to volunteer, he was a go."

During the quiet times, Weigl would entertain his fellow soldiers by playing his guitar. He built a deck out of driftwood and wrote a mock newspaper for the base, called the Taji Tribune.

"He took off on the politicians," Smith said. "It was in good fun, but there was some bite to it."

About a month after Weigl arrived in Iraq, things quickly deteriorated.

A plane that he was in charge of inspecting crashed. No one was injured, but the aircraft are very expensive - some cost $1 million or more.

"It was a big embarrassment," said Nathan Feinstein, Weigl's assigned partner, or "battle buddy."

"It really got to him," he said. "He started smoking again, quite heavily. James became kind of withdrawn. He spent less time hanging around the rest of us."

If they were worried about Weigl, no one said anything, Feinstein recalled.

"That's not the way we were," he said.

Home in 2006
Weigl came home for a two-week leave in April 2006. His parents could see right away that their son had changed.

"He was real quiet, and that just wasn't James," Kathy Weigl said.

On the second night of his visit, the family went out to dinner. Weigl got up in the middle of the meal and went to sit at the bar. A few minutes later, he took off and was gone - without a word - for the next three days.

Kathy and Mike Weigl begged their son to get help. But he refused, saying he was afraid that any record of psychiatric trouble would jeopardize his military standing.

"When we took him to the airport to go back to Iraq, my knees buckled," Kathy Weigl said. "All I could think of was, if he was that sick now, what would he be like when he came back?"

In the months that followed, Weigl's voice sounded flatter when he called home from Iraq, Mike Weigl said.

Around the base, he grew even more reclusive.

"He would be on the computer by himself all the time," said Feinstein. "He really pulled back from the rest of us."

Their tour ended July 27, 2006, and Weigl's company was sent to Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y.

"We felt like we could stop holding our breath and finally breathe again," Kathy Weigl would later write in a letter she gave Army commanders that begged for help.

But Weigl's real problems had only begun.

At the base, Weigl began to have trouble sleeping. He took to nervously driving around in his car for hours, sometimes sleeping on the side of the road.

On a rain-slicked road on Oct. 4, 2006, Weigl was in a car crash about an hour from the base. The car in front of him had spun out of control, and Weigl couldn't stop in time.

The force of the crash knocked him unconscious. He was treated and released at a local hospital.

A few days later, he started to complain of double vision, according to medical records. He had constant neck pain. He lost his sense of taste.

Back home, his parents were frantic with worry. But his commanding officers accused him of faking to get out of duty. The Weigls think Army officers should have seen their son was sinking into a deep depression.

"Instead, they ostracized him," Kathy Weigl said. "They would tell the other soldiers, 'You have to work harder because James isn't doing his job.' "

His fellow soldiers began to resent him.

"His attitude got even worse at that point," said Feinstein. "It seemed to the rest of us like he was trying to get out of work."

Weigl felt betrayed.

"It was like I had leprosy or something," he would later tell his psychiatric caseworker at Fort Drum, who noted the statement in his file.

Another tour looms
In December, soldiers in the unit got word that they would be going back to Iraq the following September, a little more than a year after their return.

"He was freaked," said Mike Auer, Weigl's best friend from high school days. "He did not want to go back to Iraq, no matter what."

He offered to work as a recruiter, and even applied to become a chaplain.

When the chance came for more training in Arizona, Weigl volunteered. He hoped to stay on as an inspector. But physical limitations from the car accident, his bad attitude and poor work record had caught up with him.

He was taken off his assignment as a technical inspector and assigned to night guard duty. Weigl was depressed and wanted to come home. He planned to fly back to Milwaukee for a weekend in February. But a snowstorm hit upstate New York and he ended up driving from Syracuse to Rochester to Buffalo to Detroit, searching in vain for a way to get home.

Alone in his barracks a few weeks later, he took out some ceiling tiles and fashioned a noose from an electrical cord. He was getting ready to put it around his neck when another soldier burst into the room. He had been sent by the captain to find out why Weigl was not at roll call.

When Weigl showed up late, not mentioning that he had come within minutes of killing himself, he was chewed out for his tardiness.

It would be weeks before he would get psychiatric care.

When she learned from her son what had happened, Kathy Weigl flew out on the first flight she could get. She stayed at a hotel near the base for nearly two months.

At first, Weigl refused all offers of help.

"He didn't want to lose his top-secret clearance," Kathy Weigl said.

She insisted on meeting with Maj. Barbara Lockbaum, the base's acting inspector general for medical affairs.

"I told them I would not leave that office until they got some help for my son," she said.

Weigl was involuntarily committed to the local hospital's psychiatric ward. He was diagnosed as bipolar and stayed there for 13 days. Weigl was given Zoloft, an anti-depressant, and Seroquel for psychotic behavior.

The day after he was released from the hospital, Weigl went back to work.

His suicide attempt and diagnosis of bipolar disorder did nothing to sway the Army from keeping Weigl on active duty, anticipating another deployment to Iraq.

At night, Weigl would visit his mother in her hotel room.

"He would just lie there in a fetal position, rocking back and forth," she said. "He was so sick. Sometimes he'd sleep for 16 hours or more. I'd have to wake him up to get him to formation on time."

For the next several weeks, the Weigls begged Army officers to get better psychiatric care for their son. They called his commanding officers and tried to set up meetings. Mike Weigl flew out, and he and Kathy met with the captain of James Weigl's unit.

"He told us that our son was unfit to wear the uniform," Kathy Weigl said. "He kept saying that James was an asset. They had spent all this money on training him and they weren't going to lose that asset."

Livid, they wrote a 11-page letter, dated April 23, 2007, and addressed to U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, detailing the lack of psychiatric care for their son. The Weigls handed it to Lockbaum, the top medical affairs officer.

"James needs immediate protection from the systematic bullying, intimidation and abuse from his chain of command," they wrote. "We do not want to have to plan a funeral."

The next day, James Weigl was transferred to a unit for disabled soldiers and was assigned to work as a file clerk.

His psychiatric notes from that time show that military doctors decided to treat him only for the symptoms of depression or mania. They did not give him medication to prevent his bipolar symptoms from flaring up again.

Fort Drum officials did not respond to several requests for comment about Weigl's treatment.

More than a year later, he was honorably discharged from the Army. The official cause was disability from the neck injury he suffered in the car accident. His Army doctors diagnosed Weigl's psychological issues to be a single episode of major depressive illness caused by "discord and difficulty with his chain of command," and they declared him to be in full remission.

Trouble back home
Weigl was looking forward to civilian life, he told the psychiatric social worker at Fort Drum.

He planned to move back to Wisconsin and go back to college. He and his girlfriend found a place in Cedarburg, and Weigl got a job installing wireless networks at hotels.

Before long, his problems resurfaced.

Weigl was more irritable than ever. He would panic and get lost on the way to work. He was starting to get paranoid, fearing he would be arrested for stealing money from his employer because his expense accounts had been called into question.

Because his work took him out of town from Monday through Friday, Weigl had trouble making appointments at the VA. He said he couldn't afford private care.

On Feb. 3 of this year, exhausted and confused, he called his mother.

"I've hit the wall," he told her.

His parents, who had moved near Chicago in 2007, took him to the VA in Milwaukee. Weigl spent the next five days there.

It was the first time he'd been seen at the center, which treats between 9,000 and 10,000 veterans a year.

It's impossible to get everything right, said Lehrmann, the VA psychiatrist who reviewed Weigl's case.

His records show that clerks had written down the wrong telephone number for Weigl and his mother.

On Feb. 23, Weigl failed to show for an appointment with McBride.

VA workers called five times after that trying to find out why he failed to show but reported never getting an answer. Kathy Weigl believes they were calling the wrong phone number.

Weigl did show up for an evaluation two days later. There is no note in the records about why he missed the earlier appointment.

Elsewhere in Weigl's chart, a psychologist confused him with a patient with a similar name who had been incarcerated. That error eventually was corrected.

Other information is consistently wrong, too, such as his birth date, address and details of his hospitalizations.

Phone call
On the afternoon of March 17, Weigl called his mother. He was at the VA that day for two appointments, a class on how to quit smoking and a test to find out what was causing tingling in his fingers.

He and his girlfriend were fighting. He had quit his job.

"James sounded real calm," Kathy Weigl recalled.

But the Weigls figured James would need a place to stay if he and his girlfriend were breaking up.

They got in their car and started heading up to Wisconsin, a two-hour drive from their home in Schiller Park, Ill.

They called when they got to Kenosha, and Weigl sounded fine.

They arrived in Cedarburg about 9 p.m.

"I could tell right away, something was not right," Kathy Weigl said. "I just knew."

All of the lights in the apartment were on. But they could not find their son.

"I went looking all over the apartment," she said. "Mike headed out to the garage."

That's where he found him.

The Weigls laid their son's body on the floor and whispered in his ear as they waited for the ambulance.

"Follow the light to heaven," Mike Weigl told his son.

"And be at peace."

The Army chaplain at Fort Drum was notified of Weigl's death, but no one from his unit came to the funeral.


Two months later, the Weigls located Feinstein, their son's "battle buddy," through Facebook. They broke the news to him in an e-mail.

"I didn't really see it coming," Feinstein said. "But was I surprised? Not really."


The Army and the Veterans Administration have greatly increased their emphasis on suicide prevention. At the Milwaukee VA, the number of psychiatric care workers has nearly doubled in the past two years. In October, the Army began requiring all its active duty, National Guard and reserve soldiers to take a test to identify potential mental health problems.


Since Weigl's death, his mother has spent hundreds of hours poring over his records. She has arranged them in three-ring binders, underlining errors and highlighting points that show how the military failed her son.


Milwaukee VA officials have reviewed Weigl's case.

"Some mistakes were made," Lehrmann said. "But we don't think that affected his care."


Everyone at the center feels terrible for the family, said VA spokesman Gary Kunich. Officials there have invited the Weigls to come in to discuss their son's case.
Thanks to Meg Kissinger for this story

A Soldiers Letter Home

Army Cpl. Jason Bogar of Seattle, Wash.,of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, died July 13, 2008 during a fierce battle that also claimed the lives of eight other soldiers. He was 25.

A Soldier's Last Letter From Afghanistan

 The following are journal entries and a letter to his family by Army Corporal Jason Bogar of Seattle, Washington. They were found on his computer following his death during his second tour in Afghanistan, after having served a tour in Iraq as part of the Washington National Guard.


Journal Entries

Afghanistan OEF VIII ‘07-‘08

15 December 2007

I arrived at a little Forward Operating Base called Bella. As I got off the bird the first thing I noticed was that I was surrounded by high mountains. They put me in weapons squad as an Assistant Gunner. I have to carry 400-500 7.62 rounds. Which weigh around 6 pounds/100round. That on top of all the other stuff I have to carry it’s not easy humpin these mountains. I was put into an Airborne unit and me not having Airborne school I get allot of s---for it.

While we were at Bella it was pretty bad. I lost my Platoon sergant SFC Kahler and was in around 10-15 firefights. The firefights weren’t that bad but losing SFC Kahler was very hard on me and the other guys that have known him longer. He was shot in the head by supposedly allies that were manning one of the Observation Posts.

A patrol went out early in the morning to set up overlooking a village in an attempt to catch AAF [Anti American Forces]. He said to the men that were with him “I never like this, you guys find cover and I’ll go up to get their attention.” He walked up stating loudly we are Americans. From where he was standing he was siloueted against a roof with snow on it and American soldiers have very distinctive silouette with our Kevelar helmet and gear we wear. But was still shot in the head by Mohamed Din, A name and face that will forever be with me. If I ever see him I will do everything in my power to kill him even if it takes mine. The men that killed him dropped their weapons and ran after Mohamed Din shot him. It was planned and they all knew exactly what they were doing.

We arrived at Blessing

21 June 2008

We took indirect fires two days in a row. It’s just a matter of time that the guy slips up and is killed. I just pray that no freindlys are hit before we kill him. Patrols have been slowing down but on the third our Platoon is going to Wanat. It’s a little village inbetween where I am now and were I was for the first 6 months. The last three patrols that have gone out that way have either been hit with small arms and RPG’s or had locals tell us that there was Taliban in the area. There is also Icom chat from Taliban that they have built up fighting positions and are just waiting for us. I think that we will see some pretty heavy fighting while we are out there.



I feel my days are numbered so I want to say all this while I still can. I pray to god no-one will ever have to read this but as death is all around me if it falls upon me you will understand my recent feelings on this madness we call life.

My views and outlook on life seems to be drastically changing recently. As many of you saw before I left when I quit drinking, I was just starting to live my life. Never have I felt as strong as I do about what I am doing here in Afghanistan is the right thing to be doing and is understood and accepted by god. As a result of that death is easier to accept.

Coming back over here again seemed more appealing than being in America surrounded by Americans that are more concerned about there next new car, new house, celebrity, ect. Than the threat to the way of life of the west that is so prevalent in the places I‘ve grown to accept as daily life. I hope one day there will be more Americans knowledgeable on the situation with terrorism in Afghanistan and how important it is that it’s destroyed.

Being back here in Afghanistan is exactly were I was supposed to be and where I wanted to be. I feel I’m doing more good over here than I was as an electrician. I knew exactly what I was doing when I re-enlisted Infantry I’m just sorry that you all have to suffer for it now.

For me to prepare myself to take life without hesitation has been a very difficult thing to do. To take away another woman’s son, husband, mans son, brother has always bothered me but through my eyes is understood by my god and I am forgiven. For the man that took my life more than likely for all he has known his whole life he feels the exact same way I do when he killed me. That is what scares me and I don’t think is understood by disappointingly a huge percentage of Americans.

I’ve always used the analogy if your told the color blue is green your whole life and someone tells you it’s actually blue they can give you all the facts in the world to prove it’s blue but at the end of the day it’s still green to you. The enemy were faced with is most of the time beyond words and it comes down to a sad but inevitable conclusion. We have to have young men that are willing to die to act on them and kill them before they can carry out any plans they have to kill innocent people because that is what they believe Allah wants, from distorted teachings of the Koran.

Know that you all are the reason I am here and to give my life for that is nothing to me. My love for every-one of you is what drives me and brings me comfort under stressful situations.

Carise let your child know of me and that even though I was never able to see he/she grow I love them more than they could imagine.

Cpl. Bogar was killed in a firefight at Wanat, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. He was 25