Today is our 3,086th day in Iraq, and our 3,614th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4474
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4335
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3615
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 246
Since Operation New Dawn: 46
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,747
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 942
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq : 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 242, 364, 500, 000 .00
I hope everyone has come through the hurricane this weekend in one piece. There's still some hard work ahead to recover, and perhaps more damage to come as the floodwaters move downstream, but for the most part I think we got through in one piece.
Some folks have been left homeless by the weather, but perhaps they'll be able to recover through insurance and FEMA assistance. I have been holding a story that's completely unrelated to hurricanes except for that one word..."homeless". In states that are now hard-hit by weather, there was already a homelessness problem among veterans that has barely seen notice by the national media.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The number of homeless women veterans is increasing in North Carolina and South Carolina as they become a larger part of the military, but the resources to help them are limited.
The Fayetteville Observer reported that
The state Department of Veterans Affairs says about 90 women veterans who are homeless live in the Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg, according to the Fayetteville Observer. Crisis Ministry in Charleston, S.C., says it provided temporary shelter to 28 female vets in the previous fiscal year, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.
But the numbers aren’t necessarily accurate because some people don’t seek help or others bounce from home to home and never enter the system. The National Coalition for the Homeless says women account for 3 percent to 4 percent of the national population of homeless vets, which numbers about 200,000 nightly.
The main reason for the problem is that women account for more of the military. And as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, service providers expect the number of women who need help to grow.
“The resources are limited,” said Stephanie Felder, homeless program coordinator for the VA in Fayetteville. “They are growing, but they’re limited.”
But it's not just those states, and it's not just female soldiers. Across the US, homelessness is generally on the rise among all veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is specific to these conflicts; the numbers across the entire veteran's community are actually on the decrease, so this is difficult to account for. It is perhaps due to the economy, as it notes in the story..."Now is just a bad time to get out of the military."
More than 10,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are homeless or in programs aimed at keeping them off the streets, a number that has doubled three times since 2006, according to figures released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The rise comes at a time when the total number of homeless veterans has declined from a peak of about 400,000 in 2004 to 135,000 today.
“We’re seeing more and more (Iraq and Afghanistan veterans),” says Richard Thomas, a Volunteers of America case manager at a shelter in Los Angeles. “It’s just a bad time for them to return now and get out of the military.”
The VA blames the rise on a poor economy and the nature of the current wars, where a limited number of troops serve multiple deployments.
The result is a group of homeless veterans where 70 percent have a history of combat exposure with its psychological effects, says Pete Dougherty, a senior policy adviser on homelessness at the VA.
Among all homeless veterans, perhaps 20 percent to 33 percent were in combat, he says.
LaShonna Perry, a former Army mechanic who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was homeless for more than year after leaving the military. She rented an apartment last year with a federal voucher.
“Some soldiers still have issues they’re dealing with from what they’ve seen, what they’ve experienced,” she says. “Some think, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’ They can deal with it on their own. Until it gets out of control.”
As of May, there were 10,476 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans either living on the streets, in temporary housing or receiving federal vouchers to help pay rent for an apartment.
Finally this morning....kids in Massachusetts are heading back to school this week. While we usually take that to mean the Public schools, the many colleges in this area are also seeing a huge inflow of new students. Some kids who would otherwise be college freshmen have opted for a military career. Some of them will serve in Japan, Germany, or elsewhere like their forebears did. But for those that go to war, they bear some of the highest costs of all.
SILVANA, Wash. — In a hilltop graveyard overlooking this Stillaguamish River village lies a young soldier killed in the infancy of the Iraq war.
Army Spc. Justin W. Hebert’s story is sad and sadly unremarkable, a tragedy bound up in the tale of a grinding war that took young lives with grievous regularity. Nearly one-third of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were age 18 to 21. Well more than half were in the lowest enlisted ranks.
For Hebert, the Army was an adventure. But it didn’t last long.
Barely two years after he finished high school, exactly three months after President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq and just four days after his 20th birthday, Hebert was mortally wounded in an insurgent ambush that may have been a setup by an Iraqi “informant.”
It was Aug. 1, 2003. The war, according to the Pentagon’s plan, was supposed to be over. Baghdad had fallen swiftly. But a new, more menacing phase of conflict was just beginning. An insurgency was in the making, and in its formative months it perplexed U.S. commanders and cost Hebert his life.
In the years since, the U.S. effort in Iraq has veered from the brink of calamity to the threshold of surprising success. With the remaining U.S. troops now packing to leave, possibly for good, casualties and costs will be tallied one last time.
More elusive is a firm judgment on the net benefit of the American sacrifice, the more than 4,400 dead, the tens of thousands injured and the untold numbers suffering unseen psychological wounds for years to come.
The invasion, occupation and transition to Iraqi government control lasted far longer than predicted, cost more than imagined and left a town like Silvana, population 90, to wonder why a war so far away brought grief so close to home.
The sacrifice of so many lives like Hebert’s helped turn U.S. public opinion firmly against the war by the time Barack Obama was campaigning for president in 2008. Three years later, young Americans still die in Iraq even though the war is widely seen as over.
It is also widely seen as a mistake, and by some as a waste.
Hebert was buried here in his hometown, about 50 miles north of Seattle, in a small, century-old graveyard surrounded by cedars and firs, beside a landmark known as The Little White Church on the Hill.
A recent visit to his grave shortly after the eighth anniversary of his death made clear that he has not been forgotten. His headstone was bedecked with one full-size and more than a dozen miniature American flags, potted plants, flower bouquets, cards and birthday balloons — silent tributes from a proud community.
Hebert’s sister, Jessica Cole, described him as mouthy, a jokester, and a “smarty pants.” He also had the inner strength, she said, to overcome his childhood fear of heights and volunteer for Army training in parachuting from airplanes. She said he had never been in a plane until he flew to Fort Sill, Okla., to begin basic training in June 2001.
“He would not get on a ladder to change Christmas lights on a two-story building for the life of him,” she said in an interview.
He saw the Army as a ticket to a better life.
“He joined pretty much to get out of the little town we grew up in,” she said, and for the chance to see the world. She never imagined he would return so soon to be buried by family and friends.
For those of us with school-age children, Labor day seems to be a more important indicator of the cycle of the year than the holidays, or the New Year. So as we head into the beginning of another school year...let's hope for the best all around.